Seven months after fire, family still waiting for city to tear down vacant house next door

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- A family fixing up their childhood home after a fire next door said they're sick of waiting on the city to tear down the damaged and dangerous house.

In March, Boulevard Place on the near north side filled with firefighters as a vacant house went up in flames. Al Watson and his family watched helplessly as the damage spread to their home next door.

"Everywhere you look is a memory, you know, and you're seeing your memories go up in smoke," Watson said.

Seven months later, the Watson home is gutted and under repair, but the house that caught fire still sits untouched and crumbling. Watson and his five siblings were sick of waiting, so they contacted FOX59 to see if we could get answers.

"We were told that there was a demolition order, but there were so many houses across the city that needed to come down. They couldn’t give me a date or time," Watson said.

FOX59 found that a judge signed off on demolition May 1, but that the wait time for a home to be demolished by the city right now is about a year.

"It goes on a running list of properties that need demolition," said Mitch Gore, manager of Nuisance Abatement for the city.

There are currently 68 structures approved for demolition on the wait list. The city bundles them in bid packages, the latest of which went out in July with 40 properties on it.

City officials said the property next to the Watson home would be on the next bid package, but that won't come out until January. In the meantime, Gore said families like the Watsons can request that a house be boarded up or placed on a priority list.

Even then, though, state laws and red tape take time, and Gore said the city is already working more quickly than it has in years past.

"The average is one (demolition) every other day and that is an aggressive stance to take regarding demolitions in a city of this size," Gore said.

For Watson, it's about saving his family home. His mother, who was a well-known member of the neighborhood and community, passed away in 2005, and his father in 2014, leaving him and his siblings to take care of the house where they were raised. He said many of the houses on the block have suffered as families long tied to the neighborhood have passed away.

"If there was a way that if there was a fire and people are trying to repair their property, that it could be prioritized, it would help a lot," Watson said.

If you want to request priority on a vacant property, you can contact the city at bns.unsafebuildings@indy.gov.