Fire, demolition change the look of Olive Place. What's next on the Hornell street?

New playground in the works as Land Bank, Pro Action partner on demo of house struck by February fire

Chris Potter
The Evening Tribune

HORNELL — Demolition of an unsafe structure has opened up new possibilities on Olive Place in the City of Hornell. 

The two-story structure at 3-5 Olive Place was carefully demolished in recent weeks through a partnership between the Steuben County Land Bank Corporation (SCLBC) and Pro Action of Steuben County. Among Hornell’s narrowest, tightly-packed streets, the Olive Place demolition effort was no easy feat. It was handled by LCP Group, Inc. of Vestal. 

“This one was a very, very tricky demo and LCP did a wonderful job on it,” Christopher Brewer, Steuben County Land Bank Executive Director, said during last week’s meeting of the SCLBC. “Just one small panel for Pro Action was damaged and they said they would replace it so everybody is happy with that. That’s completed.” 

The Olive Place home contained multiple apartment units until February, when a fire broke out on the upper floor and resulted in significant damage to the structure. The building was engulfed in flames when the Hornell Fire Department arrived on scene, but firefighters were able to contain the blaze before it could spread like the fire that consumed much of Preston Avenue in 2019

The structure was not salvageable, however, and Pro Action acquired the property which adjoins its Head Start facility at 17 Main St. Pro Action worked with the Steuben County Land Bank to have the unsafe structure demolished. 

A structure at 3-5 Olive Place, which was damaged by a fire in February, has been demolished through a partnership between the Steuben County Land Bank Corporation and Pro Action of Steuben County.

Pro Action COO Matt Bull said the property owner donated the land to Pro Action, a non-profit organization with the mission to "build a community of resilient individuals and families who can meet their basic needs, overcome adversity, and prosper." Pro Action will construct a playground and greenspace area on the site. The Head Start facility currently hosts two classrooms. 

"This will really let us expand our playground and greenspace area," said Bull. "We’re really grateful for the partnership with the former owner and the Land Bank. It has been a really good project for us and we’re grateful for the opportunity. We’re hopeful we can make it all come together sooner rather than later." 

Pro Action would like to see the playground in place within a few months. Hornell Mayor John Buckley said the partnership made the best of a bad situation.  

“I have been a member of the Land Bank since becoming mayor and was happy to work with them on this project. Land Banks can partner with municipalities and nonprofits to do this type of work,” said Buckley. “Though we never want to see structure fires, I think this is the best possible outcome for the neighborhood and certainly ProAction. Without the help of the Land Bank, this unsafe structure would not have come down as quickly as it did.” 

Pro Action will reimburse the Land Bank for the demolition costs. 

“They did a really nice job down there. That’s a really tight spot,” said Buckley. “The street is very narrow and houses are right on top of each other. There wasn’t a really a whole lot of wiggle room. Power lines were low. That was taken apart very carefully.”  

The Steuben County Land Bank is currently calling on municipalities to submit properties in line with its mission of rehabbing homes and/or demolishing unsafe structures to remove blight. Brewer said many municipalities are in a holding pattern, waiting for the eviction moratorium to expire and for the return of the county tax sale. 

“That would really give them a better idea what properties in their municipality are going to be part of the possible tax sale or whether they have to kick the can down the road,” said Brewer. 

Pro Action acquired the property at 3-5 Olive Place which adjoins its Pro Action Head Start facility at 17 Main St. Pro Action worked with the Steuben County Land Bank to have the unsafe structure demolished.

The Land Bank has received some potential sites proposals from Hornell and Addison, and Canisteo is working on a list as well. Brewer hopes to have a clearer list of future rehabs and demos within the next few months. 

The City of Hornell intends to remain aggressive in partnering with the Land Bank. 

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“There are many parcels in the City that are good candidates for renovation and demolition,” said Buckley. “I have been working with the Codes office to identify properties throughout the City that would be a good fit for the Land Bank program. The key is property acquisition as properties privately owned are not eligible for the program. Typically, parcels are acquired through the County tax sale or in some cases properties are donated to the Land Bank.

"We have had success with both rehabs and demos all around the county including right here in Hornell. In each case, the end result improved the quality of life in the neighborhood.” 

Chris Potter can be reached at or on Twitter @ChrisPotter413. To get unlimited access to the latest news, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.