Vacant for more than a decade, the house at 1105 E St. isn’t much more than a hollow shell with a buckling basement, mismatched siding and frustrated neighbors.

“It’s pretty sad,” said Isabel Salas, a community builder with the South of Downtown Community Development Organization. “It’s caused a lot of problems in our past.”

But now she wants the Everett Neighborhood to start thinking about its future, because the South of Downtown organization is raising money to buy the house and it’s asking the neighborhood to help decide what to do with it.

“We’re trying to pick people’s brains about what would they want to see this become,” she said. “I think that should be the driving force in the conversation, to see what the community wants.”

It will launch the process Wednesday with a neighborhood forum outside the vacant house, the first of multiple rounds of public engagement focused on the E Street house but with broader themes —  examining the effects that empty homes have on a neighborhood, and what can be done to make tangible changes.

In this case, the nonprofit decided the best solution was to buy the problem.

It hasn’t signed a contract yet, but will likely pay $50,000 for the house, she said. It will spend another $20,000 on demolition because the structure can’t be easily saved: It was blackened by fire years ago, the interior has since been gutted and a basement wall is buckling.

“It’s pretty disappointing to see something like that,” she said. “But it’s also disappointing to realize there are a lot of properties that look like that in our neighborhood.”

The house at 1105 E has looked like that since before Greg and Paula Baker moved across the street nine years ago. They became active with the neighborhood association and in the renovation of the 11th Street corridor.

But they also became frustrated the house remained in such substandard shape for so long. It was the subject of five housing complaints since 2010, according to city records, though two of them were deemed unjustified. The home’s owner couldn’t be reached for comment.

Greg Baker described the cycle he watched play out across the street: The city’s Building and Safety Department would red-tag the home, the owner would make a single repair, often poorly — siding that would later fall off, windows that didn’t fit — and the city would remove the red tag.

And the house would remain uninhabitable, sometimes a target for squatters and vandals.

“The police have been wonderful, but here we are using police resources for a building that should have been handled a long time ago,” he said.

The organization wants to move fast. It needs to raise just half of the $70,000 purchase and demolition costs, because its board is allowing it to put up the first $35,000.

They gave themselves a three-month deadline, Salas said. “It sounds like a bit of a challenge, but I think there’s enough interest in the neighborhood that we can pull it off.”

Baker is eager for a new neighbor. He’s thought about it, and would like to see 1105 E replaced by an area for food trucks, with a bathroom and maybe a stage area, a social draw that would add to the growing vibrancy of 11th Street.

But he’d be happy with just about any alternative — a single-family home, a place for the elderly, some kind of gathering space.

“Anything other than a burned-up building that’s just sitting there, an eyesore on the corridor the city has spent a substantial amount of money on.”

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7254 or psalter@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSPeterSalter.



Peter Salter is a reporter.

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