Abandoned homes

Seth Roy

Developer must decide what to do with run-down houses

The house at 129 B E. College Ave. has been declared unfit for habitation by Kent’s health commisioner. In addition to broken doors and windows, gas, water and sewer services have been disconnected. SEAN DAUGHERTY | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Jason Hall

Houses with broken windows, chipped and peeling paint, leaky roofs and boarded up doors are hardly ever hot topics.

But three former college rentals on the 100 block of East College Avenue are.

The houses, owned by Andrew Lombardo and his California-based real estate development firm Right Dimensions, stand boarded up and abandoned under the order of Kent Health Commissioner John Ferlito.

The fire department recently used two neighboring abandoned houses on the street for practice. These two houses are owned by the city.

Lombardo’s houses, at 129 E. College Ave., 131 E. College Ave. and 133 E. College Ave., had their gas and electric lines cut at the same time.

“The houses have been sitting empty since January,” Ferlito said. “With no gas and no electric, I’m not going to let anybody live in them.”

He said concern about the safety of citizens prompted him to declare the houses unfit.

“People have broken in there,” Ferlito said, “that’s why we ordered him to secure. I don’t want anybody to get hurt.”

Lombardo is looking for answers as to who ordered his properties’ electric and gas turned off, and who caused water damage in one of the houses.

“What people don’t realize is that someone gave permission to someone else to cut our electricity … to cut our gas,” Lombardo said.

He said he has contacted city council members and Kent Law Director James Silver with inquiries about the orders. He said he was told there is no record of the orders.

City councilman Ed Bargerstock said he disagrees with the way the council, as a whole, has handled the situation.

Bargerstock said Right Dimensions bought the College Avenue properties with intent on developing them. When the agency’s financial partner backed out, the city gave it a memorandum of understanding, which allowed Right Dimensions to continue developing.

The memorandum, passed in March, allowed Lombardo to continue development. The city has since declined to continue the memorandum.

“These folks invested some of their own money here,” Bargerstock said. “They either have to sit on it or develop it.”

He said the city has spent useless money buying property around downtown, including the two houses beside the Right Dimensions properties.

“The city doesn’t have a plan,” Bargerstock said. “The only one that had a project or a plan was Right Dimensions.”

Lombardo said the city wanted the project done quicker than it could be.

“It’s a 10-year process,” Lombardo said. “We were only a year-and-a-half into the deal. It’s going to take us six months to get back to where we were.”

He said his company is deciding how to move forward.

“Our plan is going to plan B or C,” Lombardo said. “We really want to make something work. The city needs something, and we’re here to do it. We’re the ones that have the risk now.”

Plan B, for now, is to knock down the current, run-down houses and put up new housing.

“We’re looking at doing student housing now,” Lombardo said.

Contact public affairs reporter Seth Roy at [email protected].