Mechanicsburg seeks ownership of vacant properties

The village is trying to attract more business downtown.

Mechanicsburg leaders want to take ownership of vacant properties downtown in order to bring new businesses to the area.

The village is moving forward with Champaign County to request the expedited foreclosures of two downtown properties, Mechanicsburg Mayor Greg Kimball said.

But the owner of the properties has tried to stop the foreclosures through the court, he said. The property owner, North Coast Properties of Champaign County LLC, was listed as one of the top five most delinquent land owners in the county for 2016. Five properties owned by the company have unpaid back taxes, the Springfield News-Sun previously reported; some of the debts date back to 1997. The total amount of unpaid taxes is more than $94,000.

“It’s a tax base that’s gone untapped,” Kimball said. “…and that would go to the schools.”

The owner of North Coast Properties didn’t return calls from the Springfield News-Sun seeking comment for this story.

The expedited foreclosure process would allow the village to take possession of the properties without having to pay back the taxes owed.

Businesses have expressed interest in moving downtown, he said, but back out when they realize the conditions of the buildings.

“When you drive through town you see these buildings totally deteriorating,” he said.

The village has been working with the Champaign Economic Partnership to find businesses that would be a good fit, he said.

A manufacturing company, Advanced Technology Products, moved into an old grocery store in Mechanicsburg last year, he said, with the help of the organization.

Small businesses and restaurants would be a good fit downtown, he said, and he’s hopeful new shops could open in 2017.

Vacant properties are an eyesore, local business owner Cliff Reiser said. He and his son located their business, Rush Concerts, to Mechanicsburg in 2008. They renovated a building for their office space and are working on a 24/7 fitness center next door.

“We put a lot of energy and financial commitment into renovating this,” Reiser said.

He recently turned over his business to his son who lives in Mechanicsburg with his family.

“We’re excited about any opportunity that the community can have to create more activity,” he said.

It will benefit his son’s family and his business if the community thrives, he said.

The village also has plans to pass two new ordinances, Kimball said, that would require owners to maintain their properties. One would create a historic overlay district, he said, which could open up the village to grant money for historic preservation.

The other would be a demolition by neglect ordinance to prevent people from buying properties and then letting them deteriorate, he said. This could mean fines for those who don’t comply with maintenance requirements.

Kimball said a court decision on whether or not the foreclosures can move forward should be made by Tuesday.

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