Logan Triangle holdouts say they're hardly sunk

Meralys Aviles and her family say they like their little slice of country in the city. Their home is one of the last eight standing in Logan Triangle, where hundreds of houses were torn down because they were sinking into a forgotten creekbed.
Meralys Aviles and her family say they like their little slice of country in the city. Their home is one of the last eight standing in Logan Triangle, where hundreds of houses were torn down because they were sinking into a forgotten creekbed. (STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: February 14, 2012

FOR LOGAN residents Jose Duprey and Meralys Aviles, it's country-living in the middle of the city.

They found a possum on their basement stairs one morning. On another, a squirrel climbed in through a kitchen window and noshed on some bread. The couple's three daughters chase rabbits in their back yard - acres of it.

The family lives in one of the eight remaining houses in the "Logan Triangle" - a five-sided, 35-acre piece of land bordered by Roosevelt Boulevard and Wingohocking, Loudon, 11th and 7th streets.

Almost all of Duprey and Aviles' neighbors - more than 950 of them - are gone. They sold their homes, which have since been torn down, because they were sinking into a forgotten creekbed. For blocks and blocks the triangle is now a near-empty urban prairie, save for weeds and trash.

"There's nobody around here with a house like this," said Duprey, who rents the neat three-bedroom home for $600 a month.

Actually, there's really nobody around at all, except a church a few blocks away and another lonely house standing in the middle of the acreage.

And although the couple's home is visible from Roosevelt Boulevard, it seems isolated, somehow forgotten.

Last year, the couple said, a "government lady" came and put an offer in on the house. Their landlord is considering it, they said. As renters, they would be given relocation assistance.

"But I'm not trying to go anywhere," Duprey said. "There's nothing wrong with this house. Not a crack. Nothing."

Land in limbo

The "Logan Sinking Homes" debacle began in 1986, when a gas explosion alerted city officials to something that residents had long known: Their homes were settling, cracking walls, foundations and gas lines as they sank.

They'd been built in the 1920s atop Wingohocking Creek, which was diverted into a pipe, its creekbed filled with cinder, ash and other materials not suited for building foundations.

It took almost 15 years to relocate the homeowners and to tear down most of the structures. The area has sat vacant ever since. In recent years, those whose homes border the triangle have complained about the slow progress that's been made either cleaning up or redeveloping the parcel.

A spokesman for the city's Redevelopment Authority confirmed that officials are trying to buy out the remaining homeowners, but plans for the future are far from certain.

Cicely Peterson-Mangum, executive director of the Logan Community Development Corp., said that her organization recently received a service grant from the National Park Service to look at developing an acre of the land as green or recreational space.

Otherwise, the rest of the land remains in limbo. It could be a mixed-use development. It could be green space.

It could stand, as it's stood, abandoned for another two decades.

It's just us

At 33, Duprey is a bit young to be a grumpy old man. Yet he states repeatedly that he doesn't like neighbors because he doesn't like gossip, doesn't like trouble on his block, doesn't want to fight over parking. He doesn't like people, period.

"I just like to live my life. I don't want nobody else around," said Duprey, a maintenance worker. "When the [landlord] showed us this house, we thought, 'This is what we want.' "

Aviles, 29, laughs at her husband's curmudgeonly ways. She works cleaning houses and is studying to be a pastry chef. She said that the two-story house, with a deck out back and space for a pool on the side in the summer, is a great place to raise their three daughters: Lismar, 10; Giliany, 4; and Viarelys, 1, better known as "Mimi, Gigi and Vivi."

"Everything's here," she said, noting the home's convenient location to businesses and the highway.

Still, for their next house, Aviles wants a fenced-in yard.

"Here," she joked, "we can't let Gigi and Vivi go. They'll be on the Boulevard."

Of course, the isolation doesn't mean that they're free from trouble: In the past three years, vandals broke Duprey's car window once, and thieves stole his car another time. Sometimes, drug users crossing the empty plain will leave hypodermic needles in their wake. A neighboring house was once a crash pad for other drug users.

But that building's gone, torn down last year.

"It's just us now," Duprey said.

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