A landmark with historic significance in the heart of downtown Cleveland is to be demolished.
Cleveland’s Board of Adjustments and Appeals upheld a demolition order by the city’s buildings and codes department Tuesday evening for the old stucco structure at 80 Church St., less than a block south of the municipal building.
The old building, owned by Cleveland businessman Joe V. Williams, is in a serious state of decay. According to Chief Buildings Officer Bryan Turner ,the old building has also become a hazard to pedestrians.
City Councilmen Bill Estes and David May Jr. have strongly urged the city staff to take action against Williams and several properties in the downtown area.
Window panes from the old building on Church Street have begun to fall from their framing and shatter on the sidewalk below. On Sept. 17, the front door of the building detached from its hinges and fell onto the sidewalk. Public Works was called and reattached the door. The area around the building has been sealed off.
Williams appealed the demolition order, and brought with him a detailed plan for rescue of the old building. Such a plan has supposedly been in place for some time, and much of the roof had been replaced.
He said he had contacted the Tennessee Historic Preservation Commission. He indicated they supported his actions and would like the building to remain as a historic landmark.
It was called to the attention of the Adjustments and Appeals Board that Williams has failed to meet a number of deadlines for repair and renovation of the structure for the past two years (since 2015). A list of those failures have been compiled by Turner, Building Inspector Tina Bishop, and the buildings and codes staff.
Board member Lisa Stanbery said the information, and tentative plans, provided by Williams Tuesday failed to address the structural stability of the building. The property owner said that was covered in a $45,000 estimate of intended repairs.
When Stanbery pointed out the estimate did not specifically addressed the structure, Williams offered to bring a structural engineer before the board.
When all was said and done Tuesday evening, the Adjustments and Appeals panel voted unanimously in favor of upholding the staff’s demolition order. Williams abruptly left the meeting.
During the discussion, Bishop emphasized that Williams owns other property in the downtown area, which is also in need of repair. The property owner has also failed to meet deadlines for repair/renovation on these properties, and has subsequently been fined.
It was insinuated these properties are following the same path as the Church Street building.
During the meeting, Stanbery asked if Williams would be interested in selling the Church Street structure to someone who had the ability for renovation. Turner said that option had been approached with the owner, but he had no desire to place it on the market.
Board members, and the city staff, said it is a shame this Cleveland landmark has reached such a state of decay, and apparently will be lost.
Voting to uphold the city’s demolition order were board members Donald Humes, Stanbery, Chad Dean, Dustin Hawkins, Dennis Norman and Chris Lyle. Chairman Dennis Epperson and Jimmy Williams were unable to attend.
Most of the board members are builders, or well acquainted with the building industry.
Turner pointed out after the meeting that Williams still has some options. He has 60 days to appeal the demolition order to a higher court. If that body upholds the order, Williams will have to demolish the building.
If Williams fails to demolish the building, after pursuing all legal means possible, the city will handle the demolition and place a lien on the property.
Williams’ appeal was one of two before the board Tuesday. The other had a more amicable result.
Janice Jones Jenkins had appealed an order of demolition for property at 1335 Blythe Ave.
The property owner is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, and was unable to attend the meeting. She was represented by her husband, Rob.
Dean Helsdon, who has other properties in this area of the city, told the board he is negotiating with Jenkinses to purchase the property. He said he would immediately secure the structure and begin renovations if the board would grant an extension of time.
Jenkins agreed with Helsdon’s proposal, and the board granted the tentative new property owner an extension for repair and improvements. Staff will monitor his actions.
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