John Croffe stands on his porch in Lansing, looking across South Washington Avenue at the army of bulldozers and workers destroying what once stood there.
“This neighborhood has waited a long time for this to happen,” Croffe says with a smile. “It was a tough thing to look at.”
What once stood there was the Life O’Riley Mobile Park, and after almost three years of being condemned and vacant, it was torn down recently. The mobile park was the subject of much controversy over the past few years, even when it was being used.
According to the Ingham County Health Department’s 2014 Annual Health Report, the 14-acre area was condemned during February of that year due to unsanitary conditions, forcing over 200 people off the property. Residents and neighbors made several complaints of raw sewage, improper water hookups and rodents.
Ever since then, the mobile park has sat empty, becoming a constant eye sore for those living around the area. Croffe says that he has less to worry about now that the mobile park has been demolished.
“I was starting to get concerned about the safety,” Croffe said. “All those empty trailers…we’ve got kids in this area. It wasn’t a good environment for them.”
The property is currently owned by Whalen RE Holdings, which purchased the property in June of 2009 for $610,000 in cash. Tax records for the City of Lansing indicate that the company accumulated over $150,000 in unpaid taxes from 2010 to 2016.
According to circuit court documents obtained from the Ingham County Court Services website, Circuit Court Judge Clinton Canady ruled that the mobile park be torn down on February 22, 2017, after nearly three years of sitting dormant.
Bob Johnson, Lansing’s director of planning and development, said that the city is willing to work with developers and neighborhood residents to redevelop it.
“They have endured so much,” Johnson said. “We’re interested in seeing what (the residents) would like to see happen here.”
The City of Lansing’s AccessMyGov.com page currently gives the property an assessed value of $429,000. However, if no buyers come about, the property will go into foreclosure, allowing the city – and its residents – to decide its fate.
Dr. Rex LaMore, a professor within Michigan State University’s School of Planning, Design and Construction, says that the city and residents would be great investors for the area.
“If you’re going to be responsible for taking the property apart,” LaMore says, “then you’re going to build it differently and with care.”
Croffe is confident for the future of the area, hoping that it can be turned into a park.
“For years I’ve seen people walk in there and take out scrap metal and do whatever else it is they do,” Croffe says. “Hopefully now that it’s gone, it can become a safe place for kids to play and enjoy their neighborhood. I just want this community to feel safe.”