KISSIMMEE, Fla. - One of a series of demolitions began Monday in downtown Kissimmee as crews tore down a decades-old house and dug up the sidewalk that surrounded it.
Neighbor Greg Smith talked to Channel 9 about the criminal activity he would see at the abandoned house from his office across the street.
"I'd see a lot of drug activity, drug sales," said Smith. "The police came and went to that house and made them leave. They always came back."
Kissimmee leaders said tearing down the abandoned properties is the solution to problems caused by the eyesores that have sat racking up code enforcement fines and calls to law enforcement.
"The city chose not to enforce any liens, any future liens because we feel it's a mutual benefit for the city and for the owners of the property for future development," said city leader Nancy Jewell.
Federal grant money is being used to pay for the demolitions that cost $4,000-$8,000 per structure.
An area where three homes were demolished is now zoned for commercial use. The city said clearing them means new businesses could be coming soon to a cleaner, safer downtown.
"It could probably bring up the property value in this area, maybe bring some businesses and employment opportunities," said Smith.
The demolition program isn't limited to downtown and may expand to US-192 and help the city get rid of some hotels that have been causing problems for code enforcement and the police.
The city hopes to demolish a total of 16 properties by next year.