Henrico County buys blighted property to help revitalize neighborhood

Henrico County buys blighted property to help revitalize neighborhood
The house was built in the 1930s and has been vacant for year. (Source: NBC12)
This is the first property the county has purchased, and there are dozens more like it. (Source: NBC12)
This is the first property the county has purchased, and there are dozens more like it. (Source: NBC12)

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - Henrico County has bought a deteriorating home in the hopes of revitalizing the East End neighborhood where it sits.

The house, located at 3807 Delmont Street, has been vacant for years. It is boarded up, the grass is overgrown and neighbors say it is dragging down their property values and increasing crime in the area.

Antoine Buckner lives a half a block away from the dilapidated building and says it is used as a hangout spot for people who live outside of the neighborhood. He an another man often take it upon themselves to clean up trash that gets left in the area.

"Whatever trash they have - soda bottles, potato chip bags - they just leave it there," Buckner said. "I wish they wouldn't hang out there. It's a deterrent for my friends who are afraid to come over because they don't know if it's crime-infested."

Police agree the house contributes to the crime in the area. Renaldo Arjona, a community officer for Henrico County says three murders since 2015 have been connected to the home.

"With this house, particularly the big issues we deal with are trespassing, drug sales, drug consumption and gambling," Arjona said.

The house was built in the 1930s, and in 2011 building inspectors worked with the owner at the time to get the building secured. But after that, nothing happened.

"Once the building was secured, it just sat and deteriorated into the condition you see right now." Gregory Revels, a building official with the county, said. "If the owner was local, we would be able to subpoena them, summons them, get them into court to have them address these exterior violations you see on the property."

But the current owner lives in Canada.

In 2017, building officials and police started working to find a solution. Douglas Middleton, deputy county manager for public safety, said Country Supervisor Frank Thornton devised a plan to allocate money to a fund that would be used to acquire nuisance properties.

The county budgeted $2 million, and the property on Delmont Street is the first time its been used. The house was bought for $50,000. Currently, there are about 30 properties like it in Henrico County.

Henrico County officials plan to survey neighbors to see what they want to happen with the lot.

"The question is do we use the structure? If we do, what do we use it for?" Middleton said. "How much is it going to cost? Is it cost effective to do that or do we tear the house down and turn it into a more appropriate use like a park or gathering place for a community or build another, smaller structure for county services?"

Buckner is hoping for a police hub.

"That way you have a presence of law enforcement within the community," Buckner said. "Let them be beat cops. Let them walk around, get to know the community and the neighborhood. That way the community can be more acceptable to them and we can live together in unity."

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