Four partially built houses that have sat empty in a Clovis subdivision for more than two years were torn down Monday in the first step toward reviving the bankrupt development.
The first house in the Patriot Homes subdivision, on the southwest corner of Locan and Shaw avenues, came down just after 8 a.m. with the sounds of crunching wood and breaking glass echoing through the neighborhood.
"Those houses are beyond the state of repair," Clovis Mayor Harry Armstrong said.
The subdivision went into bankruptcy this year with 57 lots remaining, some with homes partially built on them and others nearly ready to be occupied.
The partially built homes were abandoned with just the wooden frames and some windows installed. They quickly became an eyesore in the neighborhood and a constant reminder of the challenges builders faced in the unstable real estate market.
But the new owner, Union Community Partners LLC, an investment group in San Jose, plans to bring life back into the subdivision, which has two tracts and about 120 lots total.
Within the next two weeks, the group will begin construction to finish 10 homes started by the previous builder. The empty lots remaining will be sold to a local builder by next year.
Dustin Bogue, president of UCP, called the tear-down a "positive change" as a result of collaboration with homeowners and city officials.
Michael Prandini, president of the Building Industry Association of Fresno and Madera counties, said he has not heard of any other investors picking up abandoned subdivisions in the Fresno area.
But it's not unusual for an investor to buy a stalled development with plans to build it out or sell it later, Prandini said.
"In these tough times when these builders are losing their subdivisions, it's likely that an investment firm will come in or a developer will buy the lots at a distressed price and be able to sell them and make money," Prandini said.
Homeowners in the Patriot Homes neighborhood just want to see the subdivision finished.
Vern Dillon, who can see the abandoned homes from his backyard, and neighbor Baljit Singh said security has been an issue because a security wall that was supposed to be built along Shaw Avenue never was finished.
The abandoned homes also were popular hangouts for teenagers with paintball guns and for the homeless looking for a place to stay.
"They should be demolished because they were in a condition that you can't live in," Singh said.
Homeowner Zovig Barsamian said the neighborhood will look better once the abandoned homes are gone.
"It's a nice area here, and it's a shame to be this way," Barsamian said as she walked her dog past the demolition. "We're happy someone came forth to do this improvement."