Woonsocket making progress in effort to eliminate blight

Blackstone Valley

WOONSOCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — In an effort to reduce blight in the city, crews in Woonsocket demolished its 28th vacant home since beginning the initiative in 2015.

The demolitions are part of a city-wide initiative from Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt to acquire and tear down vacant and blighted properties.

On Tuesday, crews knocked down a vacant property at 176 River Street.  The owner of the blighted property died years ago and Baldelli-Hunt said his children didn’t want it.

“The pipes burst,” she said. “The walls were caving in inside so it was just the point it made sense to remove it.”

The property is one of eight already demolished on River Street. Baldelli-Hunt said the stretch is along the Blackstone River where an extension of the bike path is being created, meaning many visitors will pass through the area once the bikeway is completed.

The demolition process can be expensive and time-consuming. Baldelli-Hunt said the city averages spending about $300,000-$400,000 a year to buy and remove the properties, but it’s a cost she says is necessary.

“It’s worth it for the quality of life,” she said.

Woonsocket is not alone in its desire to remove vacant homes. As Eyewitness News has reported, both Providence and New Bedford have initiatives underway to reduce blight as well.

Baldelli-Hunt said they’ll continue to demolish blighted properties in Woonsocket and they still have a ways to go before the city can be considered blight free.

“People feel safer,” she said. “They feel the quality of life has improved and a lot of properties we’re taking off the tax rolls have sat for a very long time.”

She said the city plans to continue to acquire and demolish vacant run-down properties. She added that Woonsocket has already taken ownership of two more homes but the Woonsocket Fire Department is currently using them for training exercises.

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