Habitat project targets blighted houses in Macon’s Lynmore Estates

Georgia Public BroadcastingFebruary 6, 2014 

  • Harold Tessendorf, executive director of Macon Area Habitat for Humanity, talks about the "Blight Out of Sight" campaign.
    Woody Marshall/The Telegraph

For three and a half years, the McIntosh family has been living next to a rat trap in south Macon’s Lynmore Estates neighborhood.

“Snakes and rats have been regular” in the vacant house, said Sharon McIntosh, who lives on Carmen Place with her husband and daughter in a well-kept home next door.

“It’s just ... yuck. Nasty,” she said.

But now the blighted property is gone, along with another around the corner on Shi Place.

Crews demolished both Thursday morning in the opening salvo of Macon Area Habitat for Humanity’s “Blight Out of Sight” program.

For five years, Habitat has been working to improve the area, also known as the Peach Orchard. Mercer University students conducting a service-learning project determined that of the 399 homes in this neighborhood, 118 are blighted.

“Our plan is to try and get up to 85 structures removed by the end of this decade,” said Harold Tessendorf, executive director of the local Habitat branch.

Habitat’s work coincides with the Macon-Bibb County government’s goal of demolishing 100 vacant properties each year. It costs local government $7,500 on average to demolish a home, Tessendorf said. At that rate, “you’re looking at a project that’s probably in excess of just over $900,000 worth of work that will need to be undertaken” by Habitat in Lynmore Estates, he said.

But these two demolitions cost Habitat significantly less than they would have cost Macon-Bibb.

James Menke, owner of Innovative Fiber Technologies in Macon and member of the Habitat board, donated his company’s demolition services.

“I do want to challenge all the local contractors in this area and anybody else that wants to help us. We have 118 houses to tear down in this neighborhood,” Menke said.

“Let’s tear it down, let’s put it back like it was years ago, and let’s make a really nice neighborhood.”

Board President Tom Driver, who is president of Geotechnical & Environmental Consultants Inc., also donated his company’s services in removing hazardous asbestos from the house, a legally required step before any structure can be knocked down.

“Having an abandoned and dilapidated house ... does drag the value of adjacent properties down,” said Macon-Bibb Mayor Robert Reichert, who was on hand for the demolition. “The great thing, however, is it works in reverse.”

Replacing a dilapidated property with an occupied home “with a family and children playing in the front yard” will have a positive effect on property values around it, he said.

That is the plan for the now empty lot next to the McIntosh family home. It will be the site of Habitat’s 2014 Mercer University build, an annual occasion during which members of the Mercer community help construct a house for someone in need.

The recipient of the home, 32-year-old machine operator Porsche Thomas, threw the first ceremonial hammer to knock down the old structure.

“I’m excited. I love it. I’m ready for it all to be over, so I can stay in my house,” she said.

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