They’re in most neighborhoods – problem properties owned by careless, oftentimes out-of-town owners that drag down property values and discourage investment. Many are vacant and unkept. But occupied buildings can have just as negative of an impact. 51 E. Mohawk Street in the burgeoning Ellicott Street corridor is one such property.
The four-story building at the corner of Ellicott and E. Mohawk is a 36-unit rooming house. Others who are less politically correct call it a rat-infested flophouse full of drug addicts and dealers, registered sex criminals, and drunks. On the ground floor it has a dive bar that opens at 7 am and a nail salon. It is the scourge of the neighborhood that is seeing an increased amount of investment and is along Ellicott Street, a critical north-south connector between downtown and the Medical Campus.
The building is owned by Orlin Enterprises Inc. with a Hamburg mailing address. It’s assessed at a paltry $135,000. Considering its run down condition, it may be over-assessed.
Alarmingly, the owners are seeking to expand their low-end empire by purchasing an adjacent building at 47 E. Mohawk, the location of the now closed Mohawk Place. The buzz on the street is the building could accommodate another 25 shabby boarding rooms. A bad situation could get a whole lot worse.
New development along Ellicott Street is on the upswing. Pioneers along the corridor include Rocco Termini and his Ellicott Lofts, Ellicott Commons and IS Lofts projects and Roger Trettel’s Buehl Block and adjoining properties. Later projects include the Historic Warehouse Lofts, Hotel Lafayette, Electric Tower, Genesee Gateway, and most recently Tappo restaurant. More is planned. Uniland Development is converting 505 Ellicott into office space and Big Ditch Brewing Company is taking space Iskalo Development’s 337 Ellicott Street. While many millions have been spent on rehabbing buildings and bringing new positive life to this corridor, the Orlin Enterprises flophouse has done nothing but continue to drag down the neighborhood.
So what to do? Neighboring property owners are seeking City help. They want to make sure the corner building is up to code. They want the owners to screen tenants and be a good neighbor. They certainly do not want the problems to double with a newly-licensed rooming house. And if the current owners do not want to invest in the property, to sell it to someone who will.
The issue isn’t gentrification, it’s a matter of an owner maintaining and managing a property in a manner that doesn’t negatively impact downtown employees, residents, visitors and businesses, and contradict the positive momentum that has been created.