April 11, 2014
The Broome County Land Bank is one of only eight in New York State. It’s been operating for a few months and Stacey Duncan just became its first executive director. But city officials are already squaring off over what to do with properties seized by the land bank.
Stacey Duncan became the first Executive Director back in March. She says the hardest part of her new jobs is to explain exactly what a land bank does but it has helped her develop a really good 30-second evelator pitch.
“So what I usually say is the Broome County Land Bank is a non-profit corporation that’s been set up to work in conjunction with economic and community development organizations to acquire abandoned, vacant, tax foreclosed properties and put them back to productive reuse," recites Duncan.
The Land Bank Act of 2011 created 8 of these non-profits across the state in an attempt to clean up blight.
“If you look at why land banks are formed and where they are working well, it’s cities and regions like the Southern Tier, cities like Binghamton," says Duncan. "It’s former manufacturing and industrial towns that have seen some economic decline and some population decreases.”
The Broome County Land Bank just put out a request for proposals on its very first piece of property.
50 Front Street in Downtown Binghamton is a six-story building that was once a hotel and then a senior center. It now sits empty, with weeds growing up from cracks in the sidewalk and highway barriers blocking the entrance.
Duncan says they have started to get some bites from investors but no full proposals yet. But not everyone’s in agreement about what should be done with the building.
During the past 18 months, the City of Binghamton has been developing a plan for development in the city, called Blueprint Binghamton. One section calls for more housing downtown for young professionals or middle-income seniors.
Teri Rennia represents the district where 50 Front Street is located. She says she would like to see the property become something other then student housing.
“Student housing is incredibly important to our community but we also have a population of people who’ve lived here their whole lives who’d really like to stay,” says Rennia.
She says having a place for those people to live downtown would be ideal and hopes the land bank will consider non-student housing when reviewing proposals.
Duncan says the board for the land bank is keeping an open mind.
“If the growth of the University benefits the community, the city and other parts, then that’s something we’ll take a look at as well,” says Duncan.
But she does say that it’s just too early to tell what kind of redevelopment will happen at the site.
All proposals for the site are due by May 5th with a final decision expected by the end of May.