City: Downtown Middletown building close to collapsing

I don’t think we have ever said that the building is close to collapse, but it is an imminent public safety hazard.  The former Reed-Klopp building at the corner of Verity Parkway and Central Avenue is unsafe for occupancy and there is imminent danger of falling bricks and other debris.

The danger is not from the building collapsing but rather from the brick, roofing and other façade pieces breaking away and falling onto the public below.  We’ve had a structural engineer out to review the condition of the building overall.  Their best guess was that it would require over $150,000 to just stabilize the roof and façade to stop the immediate danger.

If you remember, there was a fairly substantial fire in that building a few years back.  Our evaluation is that it would take over a million dollars to return the building to occupancy to comply with the various state codes.  The current owners only paid $40,000 through an LLC to purchase the property.  As you can imagine, we are having some difficulty getting them to commit three times the purchase price just to stabilize the façade.

I can take them to court for violation of the property maintenance code, resulting in a fine of $150.00.  An ineffective solution.

We can sue the LLC which is protected in many ways under Ohio law as a Limited Liability Corporation from being saddled with taxpayer costs in this matter.  We will review this option and take any action that might reasonably reimburse the city for taxpayer dollars spent.

We can assess the property for taxpayer costs and foreclose on our lien.  Then, like Rose Furniture, it’s our problem.  These types of properties, like the old library on First Avenue, become the City’s problem when everyone else walks away.

We can issue demolition orders, demolish the property using taxpayer dollars, and end up owning another vacant lot downtown for redevelopment at some undetermined future time.

All unattractive options.

There were a number of comments this weekend saying “no taxpayer dollars should be spent on this.”   What is the alternative?   Let the façade fall and kill someone?  Then the City could be negligent for not abating a known danger and I can pay out taxpayer funds in a multimillion dollar settlement instead of abating the nuisance.

We are often the last and only resource standing.  I hate it.  You hate it.  We shouldn’t have to pay for it.   If not us, however, then who?  We are the last line of defense in these situations.   If the owner can’t or won’t stop the danger, it falls to us to protect the public.

4 thoughts on “City: Downtown Middletown building close to collapsing

  1. So this is basically just a bare-bones statement? This is the situation. These are the options we have so far, none of which are good. This is what we’ve heard from the citizenry. The situation sucks, but this is what we’ve got to deal with and why.

    Yech. What outside-the-box ideas have you looked at? I’m curious.

    Like

    • Unfortunately, we’re beyond out of the box ideas in many of these situations. The right answer was to have consistent code enforcement over the past 30 years and not to allow these older buildings to ever get in the shape they are now. Once they reach this state, there is usually no economically viable reason to put them back together again. Unfortunately, our legal system allows LLC’s and other corporations to purchase these buildings at sheriff’s sales on speculation for almost no money and if the investment doesn’t work out and they can’t flip the building, they just walk away. The County forecloses on back taxes and puts it back up for Sheriff’s sale again.

      We try not to get any more involved than we have to, but when the public safety is involved, we have to take action. The only way for these types of projects to work is if they get incentives in the form of historic tax credits and/or other programs designed to save the building, not because it is a good business investment, but because there is value in preserving history. There is some wonderful architecture and beautiful historic structures in town. It would be a shame to lose them, but I’m not a great fan of using tax payer dollars to perform extensive repairs that the owners should have been completing throughout the years.

      At some point, we’ll have to invest in demolition of the ones that cannot be saved and start redeveloping our city.

      Like

      • Ah. I see. So running a city well and in a fiscally responsible way requires a long term philosophy of determination, not one time quick band aids.

        I hadn’t thought of it that way.

        Like

      • Band aids tend to be just that. If we are going to have long term sustainability, we have to plan and then execute in a way that builds revenues to cover long term infrastructure costs, etc., on an ongoing basis. We have not always done that.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s