LOCKPORT – The city’s annual tax foreclosure auction drew the usual overflow crowd of bargain-hunters to City Hall last week, driven by the availability of houses and lots, and for some, the chance of city aid to help fix them up.
The city sold 39 properties for a total of $455,200, far exceeding the $250,687 the city wrote off in unpaid property taxes.
Although the air conditioning in the Common Council Chambers was cranked up to Ice Capades levels for the first hour, bidding got hot right away.
The highest-priced property in the auction turned out to be the second one put up for bids by auctioneer Randall Scherrer of Auctions International.
It was 107 Trowbridge St., a 1,008-square-foot ranch house on a half-acre lot with an above-ground swimming pool, which was bought for $50,000 by Alexander Hazlett of Lockport.
The second-highest priced parcel was a 4,200-square-foot, two-story house at 263 Locust St., listed as a three-unit dwelling and said to have been built in 1840.
It sold for $38,000 to Ethel Moore of Amherst, who said she already owns six or seven other rental properties in Lockport.
“I want to do something special with it,” Moore said. “I think I can make it a four [-unit dwelling].”
Boosting the numbers of units in a grand old house is the opposite of what the city wants to accomplish. Much of the blight in central Lockport has been blamed on subdividing big old houses into apartments.
The current Lockport Canal Homes project along Genesee Street, carried out by Housing Visions International, was focused on renovating or demolishing such properties into fewer units.
City Planning and Development Director R. Charles Bell told the crowd that the city is willing to make low-interest loans to buyers who wanted to live in the houses they bought at the auction, were planning to make costly renovation, or were planning to reduce the number of units.
That got the attention of Charles Garlock of Lockport, the grand-nephew of the founder of Garlock’s Restaurant.
He won a house at 225 Elmwood Ave. for $19,000.
“If I do live in it, I’ll look into [the loan program],” said Garlock, 27. “The area’s pretty good, it looks like [the house] is in good shape. It’s at the good end of the street.”
“They already talked to me about [the loans],” said Derek Vallese of Newfane, who bought 28 Waterman St., an 1875-vintage 2,500-square-foot house, for $12,000.
“It had a lot of potential. I think this is one I can move into,” Vallese said. “It needs some money, but I think I can work with it.”
Chief Building Inspector Jason Dool told the audience that four houses listed in the sale catalog as two-unit dwellings – on Phelps, Grand, Washburn and Genesee streets – actually were found to be singles when inspectors looked them over and found previous owners had altered the layout without telling the city.
Douglas and Christina Karlak, Lockport natives who moved out of the city two years ago, grabbed a 1,020-square-foot brick house at 105 Olcott St. for $33,000.
“It’s half-move-in-able,” Douglas Karlak said. “This house is probably for one of our children.”
Michael Evans, a Lockport man who wants to start his own property management company, bid on several houses and won two: 14 William St. for $11,000, and 13 Van Buren St. for $3.500.
Last year, he won a house on Monroe Street that had been ruined by the previous owner, who kept it full of dogs and cats.
“You could smell it a mile away,” said Evens, who paid $3,200 for the Monroe house. He cleaned it up, paid $2,000 for a new roof, and now is renting it for $750 a month.
“It helps out with the city, too. If I had to live next door to that, I’d be upset,” Evans said.