YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – People from all across the country bought vacant and foreclosed properties in Youngstown during the housing bubble of the 2000s.
Now, after the crash and during the long recovery, those absentee owners have walked away from their land. 27 Investigates reporter Amanda Smith pored over hundreds of land records and found these owners don’t pay taxes, or keep up the houses.
Up to 15 percent of the land in Youngstown is owned by people who will never live in the city or even visit, while local people and organizations are stuck cleaning up the mess.
The Parkway Tower, when first built, was a celebration of wealth and luxury in city living. Now, it’s just another eyesore owned by an out-of-town investment firm.
The building is empty. Windows are smashed. Instead of renting the 30 or so apartments, the owners closed the building and rented the roof space out for cell phone towers.
Seeing the building sit empty is angering those who have to live next to it.
“It’s just a shame that a structure of this quality and this size is allowed to fall into disrepair in this neighborhood. It really just brings the whole neighborhood down. It’s too large a structure to let it go,” neighbor Bob Pilolli said. “Either fix it up or get rid of it, get rid of the building and give it to someone who can fix it up.”
Mayor John McNally says the city has been in contact with the ownership group of the tower, which is based in Brooklyn, but now has an Ohio-based attorney.
They’ve been told to invest money in the building and bring the taxes up to date. As of Tuesday, the group owes $35,604.65 on the building, which includes penalties and interest.
A foreclosure notice was sent out by the prosecutor’s office last week. They’re waiting on a response from the owners.
Unlike many other the out-of-town owners, the city was recently able to bring the owners of Parkway Tower in for a meeting.
“They made the efforts to travel here to Youngstown to talk to us,” McNally said. “They know that we really want to see some movement on that building this year.”
WKBN tried to reach someone connected with the investment firm. The last number listed for them was out of service, and six emails didn’t lead to any answers.
“We were trying to track down the owner of a house right on Glenwood,” Ian Beniston of the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation said. “We called places in Canada, places around here. But we finally found the guy, he’d died in December and he lived in Hungary. He was living in Budapest.”
The Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp helps identify absentee owners, and clean up the properties. Finding the owners of the land is the first step in getting blight torn down or rehabilitated. And it can be the hardest part.
“The challenge of making contact. And when you’re dealing at the scale that you’re working with here in Youngstown, of hundreds if not thousands of properties where this could be the case, it’s so time consuming,” Beniston said.
Check out the interactive map below for more information on properties around Wick Park that are not locally owned. Click the map to enlarge.