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House Fire Continues To Be Blight Issue For Allen Street

The damages from a 2013 house fire on 344 Allen St. have remained untouched, yet continue to be a blight issue for neighboring property owners and businesses despite six years passing by. 

The fire’s cause was speculated to be from an electrical problem. According to neighboring resident Brandon Mercier from Allen Street, the house has remained vacant and unbothered by the city ever since.

“For the past few years, [344 Allen St.] has just been sitting like that,” Mercier said. “The windows have always been boarded and the holes in the roof from the fire haven’t been touched.”

The previous owner and tenant during the fire, Philip London, has been vacant from the lot for almost six years and is now residing in Hartford. 

The two-family styled home has a current appraisal value of $38,900 due to the fires extensive damages with a replacement cost of $184,550. The fire was too intense for the home to be salvageable for an immediate return to a livable situation.

“Someone from downstairs came upstairs and started banging on the door alerting me,” London said in a video recorded by The Bristol Press in 2017. “The fire happened in the room right next to where my children sleep.”

London, his wife and two kids, occupied the upstairs unit while another family occupied the first-level unit. All 11 occupants of  344 Allen St. were asleep when the fire broke out, but managed to escape safely before medical aid and firefighters got to the scene.

As of today, the property remains on the street with a “no trespassing, keep out” sign posted on the front door along with boarded-up windows, as well as doors that state “Kapura General Construction Inc.”

Located out of Plainville, Connecticut, Kapura is a fire damage restoration service the attends to the reconstruction of both demolition and excavation. However, 344 Allen St. has yet to receive any reconstruction to the property, as the roof asphalt shingles remain damaged along with the roof structure.

With the property’s previous owner, Carole Matulis, selling the home at approximately $75,000 back in Nov. 2003, it is unlikely that the house is going to be sold close to that value due to the property’s current state.

“It is not appealing to the eye at all,” Mercier said. “It makes me think that when people see houses like this, they’re not going to want to come down our street.” 

Allen Street has several businesses located on both sides of the street, along with many family homes and rather high-end apartment complexes. Some of those who own these businesses and their employees feel as though properties such as 344 Allen St. can affect business.

“Houses like that definitely give our neighborhood and business a false impression,” an employee from the Allen St. Citgo Food Bag Mart, who asked to remain anonymous, said. “It makes the neighborhood look run down, and that can make people not want to come into our store or use our gas station.”

In addition to the Citgo, Allen St. also includes the Four Star Shopping Center plaza, which has shops such as America’s Food Basket, a liquor store and a laundry center.

An employee of New Britain’s America’s Food Basket, Isabella Rodriguez, believes that houses such as 344 Allen St. do make an impression.

“I definitely think damaged and boarded houses can have some sort of effect on a business,” she stated. “Not even just the market, but other nearby businesses it can also effect. People might not want to even get out of their cars if the street has many houses like that one.”

Not just 344 Allen St., but many other properties in the area of New Britain are classified as blighted buildings and also cause distress in certain neighborhoods. The city’s lawmakers have approved $1.7 million in funds to asses and combat the blight issue that takes up much of the city.

According to the city’s website, these funds will help blighted properties such as 344 Allen St. turn back into productive use.

“These state-funded grants are key investments in cleaning up New Britain’s neighborhoods and strengthening our local economy,” State Representative Rick Lopes said. “By revitalizing and redeveloping these blighted properties, not only are we increasing our tax base, but we are setting the foundation for New Britain to become the economic and healthy driver our state needs to thrive.”

London could not get in touch for a comment or statement regarding the status and future of his previously owned property.

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