The dilapidated North Main Street building that partially collapsed last week won’t be demolished any time soon, and that has a neighboring business owner and city officials concerned.
The structure at 132-134 N. Main St. in the heart of the city’s business district might remain standing for weeks, if not months, while Washington leaders and the property owner feud over who’s responsible for the demolition.
Emergency responders temporarily closed down the area around the building June 17 after receiving reports of pieces falling off the roof, prompting city firefighters to remove a large window dormer on the top floor. Washington Mayor Brenda Davis signed an emergency demolition declaration, but who will pay to raze the building is becoming contentious.
“At this point, it is an immediate danger, because we have parts of the building falling off,” Davis said. “We need to get that building demolished for safety reasons.”
Davis said an ideal outcome would be for the building’s owners, Washington Real Estate Servicing Inc., to donate the property to the city, which would then pay for demolition and redevelopment. She said the newly formed Citywide Development Corp. is interested in taking over the property and finding someone who would use the site and improve the business district.
City officials have said they’ve received inquiries from two people who would be interested if the building at 132 North Main were demolished.
If Washington Real Estate Servicing does not want to donate or sell the property, Davis said the city would likely demolish the building and put a lien against the owner. That process could take months and create more problems for the city.
“The city has options, unlike what is currently there on that site. It’s been dilapidated and nothing’s been done on that site for years,” Davis said. “I would hope within the next 30 days that building will come down, but that depends on all cooperating parties.”
Washington Real Estate Servicing officials could not be reached for comment.
The delay is worrisome for Bill Ruschel since the photography studio he’s operated for 55 years is right next door. He’s heard complaints from customers of pieces from the building falling onto an alley below.
“It has been that dangerous that I’ve had complaints from people in the studio where the slate on the roof has come down,” Ruschel said. “That’s what scary. The thing is just crumbling. It was in bad shape when they took it over.”
Davis said the city plans to request three demolition bids and is working with environmental regulators to determine whether the building contains asbestos. She does not know if the city will have to utilize the court system, but added they are trying to expedite the process.
“We’ve got dangerous parts falling off that building, and we need to make sure our residents and commuters aren’t hurt,” Davis said.