Cass County Blight Elimination Program to demolish eight structures in first round of funding

Published 11:21 am Thursday, April 13, 2023

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CASS COUNTY — At the center of an idyllic residential neighborhood in Cassopolis, melted blue siding hangs from a charred wood frame that previously served as walls to a single-family home. Yellow caution tape sways limply where a front door once hung, the only barrier keeping passersby from entering the treacherous scene. 

Though once a setting for fond memories, the structure on Happy Drive in Cassopolis has become an invitation for danger for young people tempted to enter the building. Since the house was destroyed by a fire several months ago, neighbors have been forced to pass by the eyesore on their way to and from home and clean up ashes that have continued to fly from the yard. 

Those days are numbered, however, as this property is one of eight uninhabitable parcels soon to be made useful again thanks to Cass County Land Bank Authority’s new Blight Elimination Program. 

“An important part of our mission is to partner with local jurisdictions to not only clean up blighted property but to have the property returned to productive use,” said Cass County Treasurer Hope Anderson, who also serves as chair of the CCLBA.  

In July 2022, HB 5783 appropriated $75 million to a statewide Blight Elimination Program, $21.5 million of which was designated to the state land bank authority for a competitive grant program to address blighted structures.  In March 2023, the state land bank authority awarded the County land bank authority $159,226.40 for the purpose of restoring blighted properties. 

The statewide program guaranteed a minimum $200,000 allocation to each rural county through the duration of the program, meaning Cass County is guaranteed additional dollars in future funding rounds. Funds can be used to: 

  • Stabilize vacant residential, commercial, and industrial buildings to secure them and protect against further deterioration, with the goal of preserving them for future rehab to purposeful use  
  • Demolish vacant and blighted residential, commercial, and industrial structures that cannot be rehabilitated  
  • Provide matching or gap funding for environmental remediation on vacant land – often a critical barrier to redevelopment 

Round one funding paid for demolitions in Howard, Newberg, Wayne, LaGrange and Pokagon townships, as well as the villages of Vandalia, Cassopolis and Marcellus. 

The Cass County Blight Elimination Program is the latest of the County land bank’s efforts to invest in the County economy.  

“Blighted property has a negative effect on the surrounding properties; it lowers property values, makes it more difficult to sell properties and can pose an attractive nuisance to criminals,” she said. “It may also discourage additional development in the area due to the fear of additional decline in the area.” 

Additional blighted properties will be addressed in three future rounds of the program. Anyone interested in partnering with the County Land Bank Authority should reach out to their local unit or contact Anderson at (269) 445-4468.