NORMAL A longtime problem at Vernon Avenue and Broadway won't give neighbors any more headaches.

During a foreclosure sale Monday, the town purchased a former fraternity house at 701 Broadway for $182,412.03, planning to raze it and seek redevelopment proposals for a new single-family residence.

"We're pretty excited," said Tim Powell, who lives two doors south of the property. "It's been a long time coming. The property is an eyesore and a troublesome area for the entire neighborhood."

"I think it's awesome," said Anne Matter, chairwoman of the town's Historic Preservation Commission. "That's what we want."

Normal was the sole bidder for the property, offering 1 cent more than what was owed to mortgage holder U.S. Bank.

"The whole idea is to return it to a conforming use," said City Manager Mark Peterson. "We'll certainly look for a development proposal that is compatible with the neighborhood."

The property was zoned for multiple-family dwelling in 1973 but rezoned for single family in 1978 as part of the town's comprehensive rezoning plan. The rezoning meant the property could continue with a non-conforming multiple-family use until the building was destroyed or razed; then it would revert to single family.

The building was home to Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity from 1999 until May, when the town boarded it up and posted it was "not approved for occupancy" because of numerous code violations. The action followed years of problems including an April court case in which a judge threatened to board up the place and throw everyone out unless safety problems were fixed.

The fraternity made some repairs and was allowed to stay until May.

"Since they moved out and the house has been vacant, it's been very quiet," said Powell. When it was occupied, neighbors were plagued by late-night parties, trash and public urination.

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"The residents in the area have made investments in their homes," said Peterson. "The council felt it needed to eliminate the problem."

Peterson wasn't surprised the town was the sole bidder. "It wouldn't have been cost-effective to rehab it given what you have to pay to acquire it," he said.

Peterson said the building likely will be razed after the first of the year. In the meantime, officials will work on details for a request for redevelopment proposals.

The town would like to recoup part or all of the cost of the property, but Peterson said that requirement won't be part of the pact.

"The council will ultimately select the best overall proposal," he said.


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