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Ishpeming demolition first step to revitalization

November 14, 2012
The Mining Journal

It may be an extreme route toward revitalizing a downtown, but the demolition of two Ishpeming buildings earlier this week shows the value of "creative destruction."

Demolition of the buildings - at 201 E. Division St. and 213 S. First St. - began Monday.

They've been slated to be razed since the Ishpeming City Council's October meeting, but the process that brought them down stretches back much further.

The city is empowered to order the demolition of buildings found to pose a hazard under its unsafe building ordinance. The ordinance allows the city manager to issue a demolition order if the estimated cost of repairs needed to restore the building to usablility is greater than the building's true cash value.

In 2009, the city of Ishpeming began enforcing the code, using it as a tool to identify and demolish unsafe buildings - before the most recent duo of demolitions, it had taken down roughly eight others around town.

The demolition didn't come as a surprise to anyone involved. The owner of the Division Street building was issued a notice in May that the property violated the city's unsafe building ordinance, and it was scheduled for demolition.

The city then conducted two inspections of that building, one in May and one in July, during which city officials said they found black mold on the surfaces inside the building and a large hole in the roof, which allowed extensive water damage to the walls, ceiling and floor of the structure.

According to City Manager Jered Ottenwess, the doors of both buildings were open, requiring the city to padlock them for safety reasons. The owner of 201 E. Division St. appealed a Notice of Violation for the demolition of the building.

A hearing was held in August to discuss the appeal, which was denied. Both owners were then given until Oct. 7 to demolish the buildings themselves.

As Ottenwess has said, the demolition was a "long process."

We commend Ishpeming City officials for sticking with the process and realizing the seriousness of the problem posed by unsafe and dilapitated buildings. It's a problem confronted by communities across the state and the country.

The issue is one of community development - condemning and removing unsafe buildings provides new space and opportunity for communities to regenerate.

We concur with Ishpeming Councilwoman Elaine Racine who said the demolition of the buildings is "breathing a new life into the city ... I hope it attracts new business and I hope it shows that we care about our city."

We think it does.

Tearing down properties may be an example of "tough love," but in the long run, it's proabaly the best chance for Ishpeming to renew its downtown.



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