Janesville31.2°

Case Feed demolished

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
August 31, 2010
— The future of the now-empty Case Feed lot could be a sheriff’s sale.

The city of Janesville will charge the owner an estimated $25,000 for Tuesday’s demolition of the Case Feed building, and any unpaid portion would be put on the owner’s property tax bill, Gale Price of the community development department said.


“If they don’t pay the real estate tax, it will eventually end up at sheriff’s sale,” Price said.


City workers Tuesday tore down the building at the corner of Rockport Road and Center Avenue after months of trying to find a buyer. The Gazette was not able to contact the owner to ask what the future holds for the site at 922 Rockport Road.


North American Group of Companies in Madison has owned the building for more than eight years, and it has been vacant much of that time.


The $25,000 is a “pretty big encumbrance” attached to a piece of property, Price said. Other charges could include recent maintenance on the building and asbestos abatement.


Price said it’s possible the owner will redevelop the property.


A backhoe at about 9 a.m. Tuesday took gulping bites out of the historic brick-veneer building, the oldest commercial building in Janesville.


At one point, K. Andreah Briarmoon had an exchange with a neighbor. Briarmoon was the realtor working with Hand-in-Hand Historic Fourth, which recently signed an offer to purchase the building.


Briarmoon claimed Tuesday that the city was “jumping the gun.” She said she had all the paperwork ready so Hand-in-Hand could buy the property. She noted that the building is listed as an “anchor” property in the city’s comprehensive plan.


“Does that mean nothing?” Briarmoon asked. “Why do the historic buildings in the Fourth Ward not count?”


The city in October issued a raze or repair order. Since then, several parties have looked at ways to buy and preserve the building but either couldn't get financing or backed away because of the cost.


Officials were worried about safety, especially with Wilson Elementary School down the street.


City Manager Eric Levitt sought to save the building but city council members found the cost prohibitive.


Levitt was at the scene Tuesday and showed pictures on his phone of the building’s interior, including a tilted beam, a cracked floor and possible black mold. Briarmoon had said in initial paperwork that the repairing the building would cost about $45,000, but Levitt said he doubted that would even come close.


Levitt said he admired Briarmoon for her work and optimism for what the corner could be, but he had seen no desire on the part of the owner to improve the building.


“It’s unfortunate,” Levitt said. “We were holding out for that same sort of dream that she (Briarmoon) had that it would work out and be able to be renovated, and that’s why we worked so long,” he said.


The city legally could have torn down the building last November, he said.


Still, that “doesn’t make it an easy decision,” Levitt said.


He asked that city workers remove the historic signs from the building before demolition began.


Residents and several council members lined the street, and feelings about the demolition among those gathered were mixed.


Burdette Erickson, a spokesperson for the Fourth Ward, said he was glad the building was coming down because it was an eyesore and a danger.


“It is unfortunate that the building was vacated and it wasn’t cared for,” he said. “I think the city is doing the right thing to bring it down. The city gave everybody in the world an opportunity to save it, and nobody wanted it.”


Jim Comstock said he would have liked to see the building saved but realized the cost was prohibitive.


“There she goes,” he said softly when the backhoe took its first swipe at the bricks.


Sisters Cindy Baxter and Linda Campbell were watching, too. The siblings used to live in one of the building’s upstairs apartments.


“That’s a lot of memories coming down,” Baxter said.


But she said the building needed to be demolished before someone got hurt.


The siblings said the building hadn’t been cared for properly since owner Ernie Agnew died in 1993.


Price told next-door neighbor Judy DeRosier that she soon would have a different view.


“Good,” she answered. “I’m glad it’s finally coming down.”


The demolition was sad, she said, but the building was a safety hazard.


Briarmoon had an exchange with DeRosier, who told Briarmoon that she was sick of looking at the dilapidated building.


“Well then, shut your eyes,” Briarmoon said, snapping a picture of DeRosier. “Kiss your constitutional rights goodbye,” Briarmoon told her. “Your house will be next, sweetheart.”


“We’re not worrying about it,” DeRosier said.


Briarmoon was involved in a similar situation with a condemned building in 2006. The city tore down a carriage barn on property she owned at 1402 W. Court St. Briarmoon had fought the condemnation order for years and was arrested and charged with obstructing an officer when the city tore it down.


Her protests led to some changes in city practices, and staff now first issue raze or repair orders rather than condemnation orders, giving owners a chance to fix their properties.


Briarmoon on Tuesday afternoon was told to leave the fourth floor at City Hall after she insisted employees in a conference room were eating pizza paid for by taxpayer dollars, which entitled her to a piece, Janesville police Sgt. Anne Brophy said.


Briarmoon was told by police that it was not taxpayer’s pizza, and she was asked to leave the building, Brophy said.



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