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Next round of demolitions slated for spring

A crew knocks down a wall at 844 Third Ave., the third property the city cleaned up in recent weeks. (Photo by Erik Eisele) (click for larger version)
December 09, 2009
BERLIN — The city cleaned up three dilapidated properties over the past two months, but the next round of building demolitions won't begin until spring.

"These were three of the most offensive buildings we had," City Housing Coordinator Andre Caron. "Now the buildings we want to do, we have to make an application to the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources."

The three properties the city cleaned up recently, 90 and 92 Main St., and 844 Third Ave., went through the RSA-155B process. That's the state law that allows the city to clean up a private owner's dilapidated property if they don't clean it up themselves.

"There are some other fire damaged buildings that may come down," Mr. Caron said, including one on Granite Street, one on School Street, and one on Willard Street, but the city does not have the right to clean them up yet. If they make it through the RSA-155B process the city can raze them, he said.

As part of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, however, there are many other properties that will come down or get fixed up. The city will be working on the paperwork for the next several months, Mr. Caron said, and then they plan to start the next round of demolitions.

"Next spring will be our big push," he said. "Our idea right now is by April, May, June we could knock down a whole bunch."

Before the push, however, the houses have to go through a number of audits. Some properties will be coming down, but others will be renovating to improve the quality of the housing stock. Almost every property will have go through a number inspections; some will go through as many as six. There is a housing quality standards assessment, an energy audit both before and after any work, an asbestos inspection, a lead inspection, and a historical specialist's review.

The Division of Historical Resources has to approve the plan for any property deemed historic, Mr. Caron said, before work on the property can move forward.

"They're more involved in the aesthetics and the look and the feel of the building," he said, trying to maintain the character of a building or a neighborhood. The city is caught between trying to improve the efficiency and trying to maintain the historic character of properties, he said, but they are sorting it out.

In the meantime, the city will also be spending some of the $2.5 million for renovations in private homes around the city. Mr. Caron said that work will be ongoing over the winter.

"It's not going to be obvious," he said, like the clean up on Main Street and Third Avenue were, but it still makes a difference.

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