Kentucky developer sees opportunity in land bank

This comes on the heels of the firm selling four acres from the same tract to a trucking firm, USA Freight LLC, said Michael Heitz, Garrett Day president. The firm is still marketing five acres at the site behind the Kroc Corps Community Center at 1000 N. Keowee St.

The company has secured several parcels of depressed or abandoned properties in Dayton through the Montgomery County Land Reutilization Corp., the county’s new land bank.

Heitz said he will tear down the former Executive Lodge at 2401 Needmore Road in Harrison Twp. — long an eyesore for motorists getting on northbound Interstate 75 from Needmore. Heitz said his company has already boarded the property up and sprayed over graffiti. He intends to demolish the structure once it’s through foreclosure.

Heitz also has secured demolition permits to 1267 Keowee (the former “Love Boutique”) and the former Royal Motel at 1450 Keowee. As well, he will soon begin environmental remediation work at 1030 Valley St., the former Dayton Electroplate site.

Heitz said he secures properties that interest him for free through the land bank, with the understanding that he will improve the property within a year. The hope is that gradual improvements will boost nearby property values.

Heitz may be best known locally for demolishing the former Howard Paper plant smokestack off Edwin C. Moses Boulevard in 2011. He said he drove by that property for years on I-75 before deciding to do something about it. He finally bought it on July 1, 2010.

“I thought it gave Dayton a bad rap,” Heitz said.

Heitz has plans for other Dayton properties, as well, including the former Harris Thomas Foundry at 1400 E. First St.

He learned the value of obtaining and developing depressed or contaminated sites by working in New York City in the late 1960s and early 1970s and in Houston, Texas. The idea is to buy properties when they’re cheap or free and start the process of developing them.

Carolyn Rice, Montgomery County treasurer, said Heitz has worked with the land bank more than anyone else, at least in the bank’s early stages.

The bank acquires the property temporarily and turns it over to the city or to the developer. That wipes out previously owed taxes. The developer then makes the commitment to improve the property.

Rice said Heitz is working with land that other developers won’t touch. “He has a track record of actually following through and being good to his word,” Rice said.

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