A string of rundown houses and empty lots tucked behind Sixth Avenue North near North 27th Street will be demolished in the coming days to make way for a dialysis clinic.
For years, the lot has been a stomping ground for transients and others looking for a relatively secluded place to drink and sleep. The houses on the property that were vacant were often broken into by those seeking shelter.
"It had gotten pretty bad," said Tom Towe, a Billings attorney, whose office building is on the corner of the block.
Towe owned the property for years, which sits between Sixth Avenue and Seventh Avenue North, just east of North 26th Street. He built a condominium complex on the block just north, which can be seen peeking over the Albertsons grocery store on North 27th Street. Phase two of the project was supposed to be another complex of condos on the property where the dialysis clinic will now be built.
"We had hoped it would all be taken up with condos," he said. But "they didn't sell very well."
So in 2011, Towe sold the plot to Rick Dorn of Dorn Real Estate, and Emilio Campos of T&E Realty. They worked to get the property sold, seeking a zoning variance with the Billings City Council to change the property from residential multi-family to business.
The variance was granted over the summer, and Dorn was then able to sell the property to DCI, which will begin construction of a new dialysis center there once the property is cleared.
"It will be a good location," Dorn said. "It's going to be very nice."
Five houses currently sit on the block and four of them were built in the early 1900s and 1910s. The newest on the property went up in 1947. Most had regular tenants and those who were still living there were evicted earlier this month when the property sold to DCI.
Abatement crews finished removing asbestos from the structures on Tuesday, Towe said.
The construction and new dialysis center will help improve the area as a whole and will hopefully help reduce some of the issues created by the area's transient population, Dorn said.
"It's definitely for the better," he said.