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Maine Preservation releases list of most endangered properties

Maine Preservation on Wednesday announced its annual list of most endangered Maine properties, including Stimson Memorial Hall in Gray and Old Town Hall in Bridgton.

The list, released annually since 1996, is intended to identify and raise public awareness of interest in preserving endangered historic properties across the state. Of the 113 places listed since 1996, 53 have been saved, 26 are in the process of being preserved and 18 have been demolished.

“Maine’s Most Endangered Historic Places List for 2015 illustrates the broad range of historic buildings and structures that are community assets across our state,” said Greg Paxton, executive director of the nonprofit organization. “Preservation of these key structures can be a catalyst for, economic development, community revitalization and continued quality of life for the citizens of Maine’s towns and cities. Through historic preservation, our communities can wisely manage and adaptively use existing buildings, bolster our tax base and provide a firm foundation for future prosperity and a sense of place.”

This year’s list includes:

– Vaughan Wood stone bridges, Hallowell: Seven dry-laid stone bridges built between 1890 and 1930 connect a network of trails in the Vaughan Woods, a preserve maintained by the Vaughan Homestead Foundation. Two bridges have been closed since 2014, one of which was deconstructed this year because of safety concerns. Each bridge requires critical structural repairs.

– Stimson Memorial Hall, Gray: Featuring a two-story temple front facade, the hall is considered one of the most architecturally prominent buildings in Gray. In late 2014, Gray began obtaining bids to demolish the hall with an agreement to list the property for sale for a short period of time.

– Old Town Hall, Bridgton: The hall was built in 1852 as the town’s primary municipal and community center. Voters have twice defeated efforts to stop the town from continuing to invest in the building.

– Old Surry Schoolhouse, Surry: Built in 1872, the school served the town for 140 years as a school, firehouse and community center. It has been vacant since 2014 and is now under threat of demolition by practice burn if a new use and funds are not found for repairs and upgrades.

– Oak Grove Chapel, Vassalboro: Built in 1786 and listed in the National Register in 1977, the chapel was one of the first Quaker meeting houses in Maine. Fundraising efforts are under way to restore the property.

– Weston Homestead, Madison: After more than 225 years of ownership, the Weston family is looking to sell the house, which Maine Preservation says is remarkable for its unaltered condition and its connection to the early settlement of the area.

– James O. Crooker House, Norway: Built in 1865 by a noted tinsmith, the house and its neighborhood are key to continuing the revitalization momentum in downtown Norway, according to Maine Preservation. The house has been vacant for three years and is falling into disrepair.

– Jonathan Eddy House, Bangor: The 1855 house serves as a reminder of the wealth and ambition in Bangor in the early 19th century, according to the organization. It has been unoccupied for nearly a decade and will continue to deteriorate without maintenance.

– Keen Hall, Freedom: Built in the 1850s, the house has been vacant for five year and was acquired by the town due to tax foreclosure. The Freedom Historical Society recently purchased the building, but financial support is needed for its rehabilitation.

– J.M. Rice Block, Houlton: Built in 1897, it is a contributing building to the Market Square Historic District of Houlton, which was listed in the National Register in 1980. Rehabilitation efforts were put on hold when the owner’s financing fell through and the building has been vacant for more than a year.





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After tax sale, 1 in 6 Detroit homes vacant

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Catawba County iCare tour showcases local non-profits to community

Catawba County Backpack Program

The backpack program provides food to children in public schools to ensure that they don’t go hungry. Serving students from elementary to high school, the organization accepts food donations and monetary donations to purchase food in bulk. It keep its cost at around $3.75 per student, which it uses to provide kids with a bag of food aimed at lasting an entire weekend—or the equivalent of nine meal items and two to four snacks per child. The program does not have any qualification standards but works on a first come, first serve basis. It serves more than 1,000 students every weekend and has about 400 regular volunteers.

Greater Hickory Cooperative Christian Ministry

GHCCM houses many services aimed at helping people in poverty or in crisis. They offer client services for the homeless, low income families as well as people with physical and mental disabilities. They also offer healthcare through their medical ministry, as well as a pregnancy care center. Approximately 200 people per day visit the ministry’s food pantry to get a full grocery cart of food for their family. As of press time, GHCCM has served 18,145 people and 9,146 households this year. GHCCM also has a thrift store, the profits of which go straight back into the ministry.

Classroom Connections

Started by a former Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools teacher, Classroom Connections is aimed at providing teachers in Catawba County with the supplies they need to provide their kids with a good education. The organization collects donations from community members and local businesses and allows teachers to go “shopping.” Teachers can visit the warehouse twice a semester to shop for allotted amounts of supplies—from pencils and paper to foam boards and fabric scraps.

Habitat for Humanity of Catawba Valley

In its 30th year in the county, Habitat is building a neighborhood in North Hickory in partnership with the families who will vacate its houses. Habitat bought the Northstone neighborhood when it went into foreclosure and is offering zero interest mortgages on houses for qualifying families. The national organization is aimed at giving people an opportunity to own homes and helping them transition from poverty. Catawba’s Habitat is also a leader in energy efficiency, building homes that are sustainable and that offer capabilities for green energy practices.

Hickory Soup Kitchen

The Hickory Soup Kitchen opened its doors in 1983 to offer free meals to those in need. Now, they serve more than 200 people in Catawba County every day. Volunteers keep the doors open, cooking meals for hungry residents in Hickory and beyond. The soup kitchen also works to bring meals to people in other parts of the county who are unable to access it due to lack of transportation or otherwise.

Children’s Advocacy and Protection Center

CAPC ­­provides services for children who have suffered physical and/or sexual abuse, as well as for non-offending family members or caretakers. They provide health care, therapy and advocacy. Victim advocates also follow the families through the court process if charges are filed in cases of abuse. The center interviews more than 1,100 children annually about abuse. It also offers a training, called Darkness to Light, for community groups on how to recognize and prevent child sexual abuse.

Sipes Orchard Home

When its door opened in 1945 and for the first few decades of its existence, Sipes Orchard Home was a boy’s home for orphans. Today, they house teenagers and young adults, primarily age 17 or 18 who are aging out of child welfare. They help young people who were homeless transition to school, work and being involved with their communities. The home currently has ten beds but it is expanding in another building to soon be able to house 22-24.

Adult Life Programs

The Adult Life facility in Conover offers an alternative to assisted living for functionally impaired adults. Using a clubhouse model at their Conover location, participants learn to maintain independence through community service, classes, activities and fellowship. Acting as ”adult daycare,” participants come during the day and live mainly on their own or with an outside caregiver. In the past four years, the center has been able to prevent all of its participants from being arrested or having any infractions with the law. Last year, it also helped 86 percent to avoid psychiatric hospitalization.

Council on Adolescents

The Council on Adolescents of Catawba works to prevent teen pregnancy. promote sex education and educate teenagers on issues like distracted driving, among other services. One of its main programs is called the Lunch Buddy Program, which pairs volunteering adults with middle-school aged children to give them a mentor who will listen to them and become their friend. It also coaches high schoolers through its Graduation Coach Program.

ALFA (AIDS Leadership Foothills Alliance)

ALFA serves people affected by HIV/AIDS and also works to prevent its spread. Offering free testing for anyone in the county, it visits everywhere from churches to jails. There have been 330 documented cases of HIV in Catawba County since the 1980s. ALFA also offers medical case management and assistance with making appointments. They work to meet social needs, housing a food pantry and offering housing assistance for those affected by the disease.

Resource Warehouse

The gallery and warehouse serve as a non-profit creative reuse center whose proceeds go to Safe Harbor Day Shelter. Resource Warehouse reclaims “junk” for resale to be used in art projects, etc. They also have a gallery where local artists can sell their art on consignment, with 35 percent of proceeds benefiting Safe Harbor. Safe Harbor provides a community where women can rebuild their lives, assisting mainly homeless women or women struggling with substance abuse and addiction. They offer a one year recovery program and also 18 months of transitional housing for women who have completed the program. Participants of the program can also work in the store during the week, providing them with jobs as they get back on their feet.

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Bank of America leads list of banks with most local complaints: study

Chicagoans appear to be happier with their banks than residents of other metro areas — or maybe they’re just less likely to tattle on them.

The nation’s third most populous city ranks sixth in the number of complaints filed with the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, according to an analysis by Moebs Services of gripes submitted to the watchdog from December 2011 through June 2015.

When Chicagoans do vent about a financial institution, Bank of America gets the most complaints, accounting for 19.2 percent of local beefs, followed by Chase, at 17.5 percent, according to the Lake Forest-based gatherer of bank data. Bank of America led in the category of mortgage complaints.

Both Bank of America and Wells Fargo combined accounted for nearly half of Chicagoans’ complaints about mortgage companies. Bank of America acquired high-risk lender Countrywide in 2008.

“We greatly value our customers, and satisfactory resolution of complaints is our priority,” Bank of America spokeswoman Jumana Bauwens said. “Just 5 percent of complaints reported by the CFPB this year involve Bank of America, reflecting continued improvements to our customer service and our success helping more than 2 million mortgage customers avoid foreclosure.”

Bank of America continues to make “great strides in customer satisfaction, evidenced by the significant improvement in the 2014 J.D. Power Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Study,” Bauwens said. Bank of America ranked second in that study.

“Mixing 4-year-old data with current performance does not accurately portray improvements we have made to better listen to our customers and improve their experience with us, particularly when customers encounter financial difficulty,” Bauwens said.

Citibank had the most credit card complaints, accounting for 22.2 percent, with Capital One just a hair behind it.

“Citi takes customer complaints very seriously and is in constant communication with customers through a multitude of channels. Through a dedicated customer service unit, we continuously strive to meet or exceed the high standards that both we expect and our customers deserve,” Citibank spokeswoman Jennifer Bombardier said.

Chase, the leading deposit-gatherer in the Chicago area, had the most complaints from local residents about deposits.

TCF had 30 percent of the local complaints about overdrafts — double the rate of overdraft complaints that Chase had.

Chicago accounted for 3 percent of 410,007 complaints that Moebs reviewed.

Washington, D.C., Miami and Atlanta each accounted for a bigger share of complaints than Chicago, and population heavyweights New York and Los Angeles top the list.

Twitter @beckyyerak

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Foreclosure sale represents transition for Quad City hotel market

Tuesday’s foreclosure sale at the Scott County Courthouse represents the best of times and worst of times for local hotels.

Foreclosed properties sometimes produce a bidding war.

Not this one.

Bettendorf’s Ramada Inn goes to lone bidder American Bank and Trust for $2.9 million.

The bank plans to operate the hotel while searching for another new owner.

“What this could become is yet unknown,” said Bettendorf City Administrator Decker Ploehn.  “We’d like to see it redevelop.”

It’s part of a challenged corridor on Utica Ridge Road.

The once-iconic Lodge Hotel remains closed for a pending sale and redevelopment.

There are about a half-dozen local developers, and others from outside the area, seeing potential in the site.

“I think there are opportunities that it will be transformed, become something different than it is now,” said QCCVB President Joe Taylor.

Change is an ongoing theme in the hotel industry.

The Quad City area has more than 6,000 hotel rooms.  That’s up 50% over the last 25 years.

Even with an occupancy rate slightly below the national average, there could be more hotels to come.

New hotels like the Hilton Garden Inn are grabbing attention.

“That translates into growth,” Ploehn continued.  “Property taxes, sales taxes, hotel-motel taxes, which are good for us here at the city.”

But what’s new can hurt older properties.

Davenport’s former Holiday Inn and Clarion is now operating independently as Hotel Davenport.

It’s tough to compete against national chains that offer frequent stay points and other amenities.

“Those hotels that are quick, nimble, adapt and reinvent themselves are likely to be more successful,” Taylor said.

In the Quad Cities, hotel revenue topped $100 million for the first time in 2014.

New additions, like the Holiday Inn and Suites in Davenport, naturally make it harder for older properties.

It’s just a part of the hotel business cycle.

“I think what we’re seeing is a period of breathing out some old and breathing in some new,” Taylor concluded.

A breath of fresh air that sometimes leads older hotels to the auction block.

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Lutz man preyed on those facing foreclosure, prosecutors say

TAMPA — Some people facing foreclosure and desperate to keep their homes have become targets for crooks.

One accused scammer, David W. Griffin, is scheduled to plead guilty Wednesday to bankruptcy fraud and false oath in a bankruptcy proceeding. The federal charges each carry up to five years in prison, though Griffin, 44, of Lutz, is likely to receive less time behind bars under the terms of a plea agreement on file in U.S. District Court.

Federal authorities say Griffin defrauded homeowners facing foreclosure, filed bankruptcy petitions for them without consent and lied about the scheme to investigators.

Investigators interviewed scores of Griffin’s victims, many of whom had lost their homes or had bankruptcies filed without their knowledge or consent, according to prosecution court filings.

After his arrest, according to the prosecution, Griffin continued to own and operate a real estate business. Griffin reported to the court’s probation office that the business purchased some foreclosure properties for rent or resale.

A federal judge allowed Griffing to continue in that business so long as he didn’t represent to property owners that he could help them avoid foreclosure or suggest that he would return the property to the owners in the future. He was barred from involvement in any foreclosure rescue activity and bankruptcy proceedings.

An indictment handed up in May charged Griffin with nine counts of bankruptcy fraud, two counts of lying under oath during a bankruptcy proceeding, one count of mail fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft in a scheme that spanned from 2012 to 2015.

According to his signed plea agreement, Griffin operated a foreclosure rescue scheme through his companies, Bay2Bay Area Holding and Business Development Consultants, to obtain quitclaim or warranty deeds from distressed homeowners.

Griffin found the homeowners through advertisements offering to rescue them from foreclosure.

In return, for the deeds, Griffin made false promises to rescue their homes by negotiating with creditors, back-leasing the property or falsely promising that the homeowner could repurchase the property, federal authorities say.

The victims paid Griffin rent and relied on his promise to help them save their homes, his plea agrement states.

According to the indictment, he also schemed to prevent creditors and guarantors, including Fannie Mae and the Federal Housing Administration, from pursuing foreclosures against homeowners. To do so, he filed bogus bankruptcy petitions in the names of the homeowners without their knowledge or consent, prosecutors said.

Griffin also admits in his plea agreement that he lied before the Office of the United States Trustee and the bankruptcy trustee. Under penalty of perjury, Griffin stated he had no knowledge of a bankruptcy filed through his company.


Twitter: ElaineTBO

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Gulf Coast Town Center owners face foreclosure

ESTERO, Fla.- One of Southwest Florida’s largest shopping centers is facing foreclosure.

Wells Fargo filed against the owners of Gulf Coast Town Center. The company is more than $190 million in debt. The 900 page file shows the company failed to pay off its loan.

“It’s just kind of surprising because there seems to be a lot of stores over here and I think they’d be doing good with business,” said shopper Craig Morris.

Gulf Coast Town Center is home to more than 90 stores, not including brand new outparcels which opened up in the last few years. Tenants say rent is expensive; they say they’ve heard rumors about issues with the owners and they’re not sure how foreclosure would affect business.

Local attorneys not affiliated with the case tell us this a large case.

“I would say it’s probably one of the biggest commercial foreclosures we’ve had in Southwest Florida,” said attorney Kevin Jursinski.

Jursinski says businesses in the shopping center will likely not be affected.

“During the interim nothing happens wherein a foreclosure for example on a house they may want to get rid of the tenant, get rid of the owner and eliminate everybody but in this case the lender’s goal is to try to preserve and protect the collateral and the ongoing business,” said Jursinski.

He says a court appointed receiver would likely be placed in charge and leases would not be affected.

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Developer turned restaurateur heeded dad’s advice – The San Diego Union

If you’ve ever caught a concert at the House of Blues downtown, dined al fresco at the Patio in Pacific Beach, or maybe indulged in a long weekend at a pet-friendly vacation rental in Mission Beach, you have Gina Champion-Cain to thank – plus a bit of sage advice her father gave her when she was a young girl.

“He told my sister and me we could do whatever we wanted to do, and no one could stop us as long as we put our heart and soul into it,” recalled Champion-Cain, whose early career path followed her father’s to real estate development. A serial entrepreneur, she has since moved on from overseeing multi-million-dollar housing and commercial deals to opening multiple restaurants, along with gourmet food and kitchen stores, developing a line of beach apparel and acquiring a portfolio of vacation rental properties.

Gina Champion-Cain

Title: President of American National Investments

Age: 50

Personal: Born in Port Heron, Mich., and lives in north Mission Hills with her husband

Education: Double major in philosophy and political science at the University of Michigan; master’s in business administration from University of San Diego, graduate of USD law school.

Professional: Began her career working for companies specializing in asset management and real estate development. Started her own firm in 1997.

Projects: House of Blues, Acqua Vista Apartments (383 units); Broadway Lofts (84 units); Patio restaurants in Pacific Beach and Mission Hills, and a Patio outlet at Petco Park; recent purchase of Saska’s Steakhouse and Sushi; Front Porch culinary stores; Luv Surf Apparel; Luv Surf vacation rentals.

So successful has her Patio dining concept become, she’s scouting future locations and making plans to bring her brand to the wine country in Northern California. Champion-Cain’s next Patio-inspired concept is due to open soon in Liberty Station. She talked with the Union-Tribune about her recent business ventures and what drives her zeal for new investments.

Q: Your professional pursuits have taken you from downtown apartment development to beach apparel. How are you able to sustain so many diverse businesses?

A: They’re diverse, but they’re not. I’m in the people business and, if you understand you’re in the hospitality business, you know it’s all about pleasing people, whether I’m providing them a great meal or a nice place to stay, or a nice shop where they’re buying my surf attire. I really see it as one. As a company, we really are one family. I have some superstars that run these different businesses and they are committed, which you can tell because they’re doing well.

Q: What drove your decision to get involved in developing the now rapidly growing chain of Patio restaurants?

A: People used to tease me, saying you should become a restaurant owner because I love to go out to eat. But I know restaurateurs and I’d say, oh God, I’m never going into that business. I watched how hard they worked, so I never had any intention of getting into it. Now that I’m doing it, it’s the success; the idea that wow, maybe I’m onto something here. I’m a real estate girl and to me it’s always location, location, location.

Q: When you first launched your development and real estate management business in the late 1990s, you were competing in an arena very much dominated by men. How challenging was that?

A: I was clearly more educated than many of my male counterparts, but always was paid less and given more of the administrative work early on in my development roles. I sucked it up and hung in there, knowing that I had a very strong work ethic and desire to succeed and that some day the tide would change for me, which it did. I never gave up. I never felt sorry for myself. I just rolled my sleeves up and worked my fanny off.

Q: What inspired you to launch a vacation rental business?

A: It was a shift because I didn’t have a choice. The economy had gone into the tank. I had this $350 million hotel, condo, retail and office space development right near the ballpark that I was trying to do, but it didn’t work out. It was 2009, 2010 and we couldn’t get any financing, so I was moping around and I thought, I have to do something. I stay at the beach a lot and have big golden retrievers and quarterly, I’d go with girlfriends and stay at a beach rental.

But most charge a fortune, are in bad condition and most don’t allow dogs. I remember saying to a girlfriend, there’s a business here where you have nice clean homes, you allow dogs and run them like a hotel. I bought my first one out of foreclosure in 2011. I came up with this cute logo, Luv Surf, and said we’re pet friendly. This was my beta test, in north Mission Beach. I now own 10 of them.

Q: Short term vacation rentals are at the center of a growing conflict in San Diego that is building toward new municipal regulations. How do you feel about the city’s move to beef up regulations?

A: I don’t really care what the city decides to do. The reality is people need to understand the history of Mission Beach. It’s different from any other community in San Diego when it comes to vacation rentals. It’s evolved as a vacation destination and was meant for the common man to be able to come and enjoy the beach. Therefore, they’ll never be able to get rid of short-term rentals in Mission Beach, because there is too much history. I won’t do short-term rentals anywhere besides Mission Beach.

Q: What are your plans for continued restaurant development?

A: I’m in escrow on a building in Petaluma where we will open another Patio. I’m looking at a space in Carmel for a new concept I’m developing, Patio Marketplace, which will be like a public market scene with a Patio at its core. We’re also looking at Santa Barbara, Santa Monica; we want to expand it along the West Coast. Personally, I’d like to see more good food in North County, but it’s been very difficult to find a spot that works for me in the coastal area.

Mugshot of Lori Weisberg

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Foreclosure sought on lawsuit property

Posted: Tuesday, September 15, 2015 8:30 am

Foreclosure sought on lawsuit property

Messenger staff journalist

The Athens Messenger

A foreclosure action has been filed in Athens County Common Pleas Court on property that is the subject of an environmental lawsuit.

The Messenger reported last October that the Athens City-County Health Department had filed a lawsuit against Ronald, Kyla and Samantha Powell seeking clean-up of their property at 18592 Greens Run Road, Glouster. The main issue alleged was untreated sewage going into a creek from a failed septic tank, although the lawsuit also mentioned open burning.

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      Tuesday, September 15, 2015 8:30 am.

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      Cleveland man hit in phone scam, how to protect yourself – WKYC

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