Journ Student Jess

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Checking on Congress: A video diary by Jessica Haynes

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I recently found out the house my parents brought me home to was torn down. So I set out in Saginaw to find out what happened and to talk a walk around my old neighborhood. The following is a video diary I created using video and still photography from the bright Sunday afternoon I returned to Congress Street. Below the picture is a full-length article with additional information about the disappearing house phenomenon happening in Saginaw.

Here is a link to the video diary.

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FULL ARTICLE: Checking on Congress by Jessica Haynes

It’s been 18 years since I visited my old neighborhood in Saginaw and when I heard the house I grew up in was gone, I knew I had to return and check on the state of Congress.

My parents brought me home the summer of 1990 to a little house with black shutters, at 1115 Congress Street. The house barely covers 900 square feet; I still remember sharing a bedroom with my sisters at the “little house” as we called it.

A bit of research revealed the house, estimated at $32,000 by the real estate company Trulia, was sold for $1 in 2005. After it was purchased by the Saginaw County Land Bank for $3,112, the property was selected for demolition.

While I was taking pictures of the empty place where my house once stood, Saginaw resident Donquavis Gibson approached to ask if I was turning the area into a parking lot. I told him that I was just trying to find out to the house that once stood there.

Gibson, 21, informed me the house I lived in was tore down just a few months ago and added other properties on Congress had been turned into parking lots by Covenant Healthcare. I asked him how he felt about the demolitions.

“It’s cool, money make money. I ain’t tripping,” Gibson replied.

He said many of the residents in the area were homeowners and that the hospital was trying to move them out of the neighborhood. Two houses on my old block are now boarded up, decorated with bright yellow arson signs to deter any potential troublemakers.

Saginaw resident Victor Colon Junior, 63, lives on Benjamin Street and said he wants to see something beneficial planned for the empty lots.

“If nobody is going to maintain them, might as well put the land to good use,” Colon said.

Just three blocks away, an ordinary house stands out from the others lining Bond Street. The body of 23-year-old Saginaw resident Angelica Olivarez was found inside the residence little over a week ago.

Her death brought hundreds together to not only mourn her loss but console each other as a community. Saginaw has been rated one of the most dangerous cities by the FBI as recently as 2011.

A sign on the corner of Congress and Benjamin reads that the Saginaw Neighborhood Stabilization program is at work in this area.

Housing Coordinator Miss Johnston said the organization acquires foreclosed or abandoned properties in order to rehabilitate or rebuild for future homeowners.

“People are interested in our program. This is a good market to buy and we have been very successful with the houses we have rehabbed and sold,” Johnston said.

The program is limited in what else it can do for my old neighborhood; it is nearing the end of its three-year run.

“As soon as we have acquired buyers for our last properties we are working on, the program will be over,” Johnston said.

Although I can visit the two other houses that have sheltered me, the little house on Congress Street is gone. Row of pine trees are left, and whether or not the property is used by hospital employees or left alone to silently nurture what is growing it its soil, the land is still there.

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Written by hayne2jr

April 23, 2013 at 10:21 pm

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