May 14, 2014 8:00 pm • Rob Earnshaw Times Correspondent
HAMMOND │ The city Wednesday celebrated its 400th home demolition during the tenure of Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work in 10 years,” McDermott said. “It’s been a huge priority for us.”
Hammond uses a large part of its gaming money every year to demolish dilapidated homes like No. 400, at 423 Florence St. near Harrison Avenue and 165th Street.
“We usually have to pay up to $1 million a year and that has to pay for all the litigation,” McDermott said.
“There’s a lot of legal work that goes into demolition. It’s not just acquiring the property and knocking it down. You have to make sure you have clear title and go through a lot of hearings.”
McDermott said when the city gets rid of blight, the rest of the neighborhood starts to fix up its homes because they’re more proud to be living there.
“It just makes sense for us to do this,” he said. “This is an eyesore and we are going to make this neighborhood better.”
Kelly Kearney, Hammond code enforcement commissioner, said a lot of houses that make the city’s demo list end up being purchased or agreements are made to rehab those properties.
“It’s not just a matter of taking a house and demolishing it if we can get it back on the tax rolls and maybe spur some improvements — that’s the ultimate goal,” he said. “True investment is if we can get the house brought back to what it was meant to be.”
Ruby Alvarez lives next door to the now razed home.
“It’s a big relief,” she said. “It’s not only an eyesore but more of a health hazard.”
On the other side of the demolished home lives Nellie Williams, who just adopted her two young grandchildren who love to play outside.
“We’re not going to miss it at all,” she said.