Demolition of Harrisburg homes begins on block deemed unsafe from 2014 sinkhole

HARRISBURG, Pa. - What once was a block people called home is now the site of a demolition project. City of Harrisburg crews began tearing down 53 homes on the 1400 block of South 14th Street where a sinkhole opened up in March 2014. The city had no money to pay for the sinkhole problem at the time and applied for federal aid. Harrisburg became the first city to be approved to use federal disaster aid on a sinkhole.

"This is going to be a model for sinkhole mitigation for the rest of the country," said Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse.

The city received more than $5 million in federal funding from FEMA and House and Urban Development. The city used that money to work with people living on the block to help them relocate, buy their homes and secure the sinkhole.

"This is an example of government doing things right," said Papenfuse. "Working with partners. We worked with federal government, state government and the county to cobble together all these sources of funding and really help people in need."

Once the homes are town down the city will use $1 million from Dauphin County to turn the sinkhole site into a green space, which is required because of the use of federal dollars. The land will also have deed restrictions, not allowing future development on the property.

"I think the end result is something that will enhance the neighborhood and be good for the youth and families that continue to live in south Harrisburg," said Papenfuse. "All in all a difficult process but we've done the right."

Demolition is expected to be done in 45 days, from there work will begin to transform the area into green space. The entire project is expected to be complete mid-summer.

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