Housing Heros Story Series 4 of 4 | Redfield

Posted on February 7, 2019

Carey Grosdidier
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In the past 15 years, over 80 dilapidated properties have been acquired and demolished in Redfield, making way for new development or for community beautification purposes. The efforts have opened up new housing opportunities and have been a part of Redfield’s overall economic development plan to help attract new businesses and people to town.

Part of the success in Redfield can be attributed to the fact that the City often works in conjunction with Grow Spink, Inc. to help with property acquisition. The purpose of Grow Spink is to promote, stimulate and expand economic, commercial, industrial and residential growth for Spink County.

Craig Johnson, former (now retired) Executive Director of Grow Spink, Inc., found a special kind of satisfaction in property acquisition in his thirteen years at the organization.

“One day you have an eyesore to look at, and after about a day of clean-up, you have a clean, empty lot in its place, ready for new development,” he says.

Over the years, Grow Spink Inc. has purchased multiple dilapidated properties in Redfield and partnered with the City for clean-up and re-development. While no two property acquisitions are the same, there are some basic rules to follow.

  1. Partner with the right entities. Work with the City and be on good terms with the County States Attorney  and County Treasurer’s Office.
  2. Be sure to take care of all the legal work so the property is free and clear of any liens, judgments, assessments, etc.
  3. When possible, work with the County Treasurers Office to keep abreast of upcoming Tax Deed Foreclosures, appropriate redemption periods, and County property ownership dates.
  4. Keep $25,000-$30,000 in a fund to be used for property acquisition—don’t borrow money long term. Use the money from property sales to replenish funds.
  5. Control the property.  This is the main rule.  Without ownership, a nonprofit is limited in what they can do with the property. 
  6. Don’t try to do too much at once. Start with one or two properties a year.

A strong partnership with the City is essential in a successful acquisition program. In Redfield, the City worked hand-in-hand with Grow Spink in acquiring dilapidated properties. Occasionally, the City would identify an eyesore property and ask for assistance in the purchase.

“It’s more difficult for a City to buy and sell property.  It’s a public transaction and there are government obligations involving surplus, appraisal, auctioning, and advertising which makes for a lengthy time frame. Deeding the property to a nonprofit organization, which is allowed by SDCL for economic development purposes, allows the nonprofit to deal directly with a buyer or seller in a normal business transaction as done in the private sector,” explains Craig.

Redfield City has a street crew with all the necessary equipment that can also be used for demolition of property. This is accomplished in a time frame that suits the City. The City, in an agreement with Grow Spink, also maintains the property, such as weed control, snow removal and lawn care, while the lot remains vacant.

Craig’s expertise in property acquisition has brought him to make presentations and to work with communities like Faulkton, Doland, Conde, Northville, Frankfort  and many others. He cautions that this line of work is not for everyone.

“You don’t always get to be the nice guy,” he explains. 

For example, years ago an old mobile home park in Redfield was identified as an area to be improved.  Most of the homes were dilapidated and in need of repair and replacement along with the infrastructure. Residents were allowed eight months to find a new home, but the decision to move the homes and relocate the people was not popular with everyone.

Once all the mobile homes were moved, the area was cleaned up and rezoned residential. Today six new homes have been built into the neighborhood, and the area is being considered for multi-family units. “Sometimes the goal is to develop the land into something new. Sometimes it’s just to clean up an eyesore for the guy next door,” he says. “When I look around a town and see neglected property, I see an opportunity. The first step is simply to see if the property can be purchased directly without any government involvement.  A nice conversation is a good place to start.”

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