MASON CITY – A long-blighted stretch of North Federal Avenue is getting a serious look from city officials, who are negotiating with the property owner on a resolution to the situation.
The Mason City council and mayor will discuss at a work session on Tuesday, September 30 at 5:00 PM at city hall how to potentially re-develop a stretch of buildings on the east side of North Federal Avenue, at the 1300 block. The buildings in questions are owned by Russ Hardy, a Mason City landlord. The worst of the buildings, city staff says, is between 1333 to 1343 North Federal. Portions of these buildings are rotted or in very poor condition, while others are actually still inhabited by people.
City staff has been researching the history of the area with the intent to formulate alternatives for redevelopment. The object is to remove blight and improve nearby property values. Staff has been in contact with Russ Hardy, who told city staff he does not intend to rent one of the buildings – the former Alley Katz bar – to a new bar owner, but us seeking a tenant. He does plan to do some restoration to the buildings. Staff claims he has no plans for the other buildings, and does not feel restoration would bring a return on investment.
A long-time Mason City volunteer, Ozzie Ohl, offered this take on the matter:
“This is a disgrace,” Mr. Ohl stated via social media. “And why after letting these buildings get beyond repair did Russ Hardy buy the building on the corner and do it under a different ownership. He either has an addiction to buying property and letting it run down or is quite the conniver so that he can have a corporation with no assets so the city will have to pay for this.”
Staff will present the council and mayor with several alternatives, which include: 1) Do nothing 2) Condemn some of the buildings and proceed to demolish them 3) Condemn one or more of the buildings for redevelopment 4) Use TIF to purchase the properties (Hardy says he is open to negotiation, and has made deals with the city very recently on houses along State Street) 5) Assist a private non-profit for acquisition and redevelopment of the buildings.