OTS AND LOTS you $100 for that property, because I’m going to put $30,000 into the structure,’” Park says. “If they don’t put that $30,000 in, or if they don’t make the repairs they promised to make with that $30,000, the land bank can foreclose and take it back.” Developers also must prove that they have the financial stability to improve the home, pass a background check, and agree to occupy the home for three years. “If a house has been vacant for two or three years,” Park says, “and you say, ‘Well, I’m going to paint it’ — OK, tell us what else you’re going to do.”
he land bank is also able to invoke that ancient adage of business: You gotta spend money to make money. For Park, that means attending tax-foreclosure auctions on the steps outside the Jackson County Courthouse to bid on properties. With smart but modest investments, the thinking goes, the bank can pick up a little window dressing to go with its more blighted holdings. Relatively move-in-ready properties could draw eyes to
readied themselves for bidding wars. (Park the rest of the bank’s holdings while bringing had already decided to pass on everything that in needed revenue. day — knowing the land bank would end up “You want to have good properties in your with something anyway.) Most of what went inventory, because you make money off of up, though, didn’t attract that kind of interest. those to cover your costs of maintaining the “Next parcel is K20121087,” the auctioneer properties that are difficult or impossible to sell,” Park says. “Somebody’s got to droned. “Any bids?” No hands. mow. Somebody’s got to clean up the trash. “Seeing no bids. Next parcel.” Somebody’s got to keep it boarded.” The next one also failed to attract a buyer, At an August 6 tax-foreclosure auction, and in two minutes the land a c o up l e o f h u n d r e d bank was burdened with people showed up to the “Somebody’s got to mow. two more properties. courthouse, looking to Somebody’s got to clean up That means two more snap up properties on the proper t ies to add to a cheap. The crowd was the trash.” website that doesn’t yet racially diverse, with every include photos of most of age group represented and a what’s available. Two more properties for city miniature U.N. of languages spoken. Families employees to research and then input into waited with their bored children as the a database. Two more properties to inspect temperature climbed toward the mid-90s. A and, perhaps, tear down. few arrived early enough to find space for their When Park was studying how to set up his camping chairs in the shadow of the building, office, he spoke with the director of a land but many more more sweated in the sun. bank in Michigan, who told him, “Well, we’re Just about everybody at the auction clutched a copy of a newspaper ad listing the big. We’ve got 600 properties and only 14 staff process. They’d circled properties in marker, members.”
“OK,” Park says, “now I’ve got 3,600 properties and five staff members, not counting me.” He chuckles.
t that South Benton house where raccoons may be squatting, Keeney is ready to go inside. The field inspector, one of Park’s five staff members, has left the land bank’s bland Swope Parkway office to spend this sweltering Tuesday making notes on a handful of properties. A quick scan of the land bank’s website map shows two basic commonalities: that most of the holdings are east of Troost, and that the properties are in closely proximate clusters. There’s the one, for example, on Benton Boulevard between East Linwood and East 41st Street: 10 buildings in an eight-block stretch. Another stands between Topping and White avenues, south of Dunbar Park — an area eaten up by encroaching brush and illegal garbage dumping. Some of the singlelane streets look like nature paths rather than thoroughfares, with tree branches hanging low enough to graze passing cars. The bank holds nine properties in continued on page 9
september 12-18, 2013
The Pitch, September 12-18, 2013. Kansas City's Alternative Weekly.