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City officials struggle to deal with blighted North Federal Avenue

This news story was published on September 28, 2014.
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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.


Rear of 1343


Rear of 1335


Rear of 1333


1343 to 1333 North Federal Avenue


1343 to 1333 North Federal Avenue


Buildings need attention


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19 Responses to City officials struggle to deal with blighted North Federal Avenue

  1. Philosophus Reply Report comment

    September 29, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    I have to say. I drove by Cutting Edge Warehouse on Monroe, and I’M IMPRESSED: Entire Rooftop Array of South Facing Solar Panels. Awesome. Now if the Hardy’s only start a rags to riches house ownership program for their clients, I’d call them redeemed.

    • Anonymous Reply Report comment

      October 1, 2014 at 6:20 pm

      That is a Kevin Hardy project. Poor Kevin gets so much crap about the condition of the rentals his mom and dad own.

    • rahmbo Reply Report comment

      October 2, 2014 at 12:18 pm

      I wonder how much of that was subsidized by tax dollars?

  2. Philosophus Reply Report comment

    September 29, 2014 at 6:01 am

    Don’t you wish you had a group of progressive artist types to go in there and claim the district? When are you people going to stop driving out those with talent, scapegoating them, arresting them for a little weed? Artists are what make value in cities. The loser alcoholic meth heads drive value down…coincidental they are also violent. Peace is the only way. End all violence, including state sponsored violence. Eliminate religious zealotry and free minds. That’s how you do it

    • Philosophus Reply Report comment

      September 29, 2014 at 6:04 am

      Mason City offers about 3 choices: 1. Wear a wife beater t shirt as an alcoholic, meth head druggy thief loser. 2. Turn to God and join the Children of the Corn, sitting in a church pew listening to the latest young pastor speak to pretty young girls. 3. Become an asshole business guy out to screw everyone and get rich over others. Which is it for you?

      • Philosophus Reply Report comment

        September 29, 2014 at 8:23 am

        Hey, no really…I’ve got this great idea: I’ll take this old book, read through it and familiarize, then attach a fresh face to an old spin, and see if people buy into me. I know people like listening to the ‘Word’, so if I do good enough job tranquilizing people with my voice, I might acquire a following. There’s plenty of old buildings around to convert into a hall. Who cares that I used to do drugs, and wandered thru life…none of that matters cuz I’m “found” now.

        • Anonymous Reply Report comment

          September 29, 2014 at 2:19 pm

          Talk to yourself much?

          • Buzz Crumcutter

            September 29, 2014 at 3:45 pm

            I have to ask; why hasn’t the city sited the property owner for the condition of these buildings?

            While Mr. Hardy is responsible for the condition of these buildings, the city is at fault for not enforcing its ordinances.

            Maybe Mr. Hardy would consider demolishing the buildings and clearing the lots, then donate everything to the city???

          • LVS

            September 29, 2014 at 5:43 pm

            @Buzz-Hardy doesn’t do anything that will cost him money. He only takes and never gives. He is the classic definition of a slum lord.

    • rahmbo Reply Report comment

      October 2, 2014 at 12:29 pm

      It’s a shame that the ptb spent so much money on that junk downtown that the elite consider art. Most of it looks better suited to a Holiday Inn lobby.

      Get some artists some cheap studio space on North Federal in exchange for murals and real streetscape art.

  3. jojo1girl Reply Report comment

    September 29, 2014 at 2:26 am

    While the city is at it~ force Russ Hardy to ‘spruce up’ the horseshoe area on 15th NE behind Mason City Lumber. I don’t know how ANY of those 5 houses could pass any sort of city housing codes..

  4. 2old2fat Reply Report comment

    September 28, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    I’d bulldoze from 12th st ne/ne on 65 all the way to the cement plants. those houses on n fed aren’t worth much, build a nice new strip mall and some more welfare apts. just get rid of the shitty looking buildings wont do it, its needs a new face lift for blocks.

    • rahmbo Reply Report comment

      October 2, 2014 at 12:25 pm

      Yeah, Mason City needs more strip malls.

  5. rukidding Reply Report comment

    September 28, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    Tear it down. The owner has had more then enough time to fix it up.

    • LVS Reply Report comment

      September 28, 2014 at 6:13 pm

      @rukidding-I agree, but make Hardy pay for it. He is just stalling hoping the city will foot the bill and that means us taxpayers would take it in the shorts again.

  6. LVS Reply Report comment

    September 28, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    Russ Hardy owns the who damn block on North Federal where the run down buildings are. He is delibertly stalling trying to get the city to pay to tear them down. He put the building in a separate corporation with no funds so he couldn’t be forced to pay for them like he should.

    • Anonymous Reply Report comment

      September 28, 2014 at 4:48 pm

      No different then the downtown people. That business it suck but happens all the time.

  7. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    September 28, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    It goes farther to the north then that. Look at the cement plant property. Coming in from the north it looks like a prison fence on there property only not maintained. Overgrowth looks bad also. Starting north of b-20, a spruce up would go a long ways. One other thing the under pass near Wendy’s could use a face lift along with many of the rusted stop lights. Oh wait that would mean less money for Main Street. What was I thinking

    • LVS Reply Report comment

      September 28, 2014 at 3:51 pm

      They just put those railings in but went cheap on the paint and now they are rusted. They will probably want to powder coat them again because that way the city will just contract it out and won’t have to do any work. The cheap way would be to sand blast, prime and paint with a good paint, but that is just to cheap and makes to much sense. Besides, the city workers would have to get out of their trucks and do the work (or maybe not).