EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio - The cities of East Cleveland and Cleveland Heights are working with the Cuyahoga Land Bank to take down a series of condemned homes and buildings in the North Coventry Neighborhood.

It’s the first phase of a massive demolition effort that’s part of a comprehensive plan to improve both cities.

Heavy equipment was used to knock down five homes simultaneously as a way to kick off the project, an initiative that calls for the demolition of 60 homes over the next several weeks.

Funding for the $1.1 million project came from mortgage fraud settlement money paid to Ohio and then later issued by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton said he believes taking out blight structures that can’t be saved will reduce crime and increase property values for the homes that remain.

“These demolitions are a marked change that will eliminate decades of decay to make way for economic development,” Norton said. “We have embarked on a historic opportunity to rebuild the North Coventry neighborhood in such a way that the future will be brighter than the past.”