Tuesday, December 18, 2012

And the Walls Came Tumbling Down

Photo by Evan Brandt

A view of the portion of the building that will be torn down with council's permission.

A portion of a North Washington Street property that has stood vacant since 2003 will be torn down now that borough council approved the owner’s request for a demolition permit.

Charles Miller, the owner of 22 N. Washington St., between High and King Streets, said for years he has tried to find tenants for the front portion of his property behind the Smith Towers senior housing.

He said he plans to keep the building on the rear portion which is “totally open, about 2,000 square feet. It’s warehouse space right now.”

Miller said he has owned the building since 2003, but could not get a tenant.

When he went to the borough for the demolition permit, the zoning officer ruled it could have historical significance, thus requiring council approval, but even the Historic Architecture Review Board agreed it should be town down.
The rear portion of the property at 22 N. Washington St.
will remain standing.

“It was not a hard sell to get HARB to agree,” Miller said of his demolition request.

Councilman Mark Gibson, who represents the ward in which the building is located and who was the only member of council to vote against allowing the demolition to go forward, said he worries about what happens when that space is vacant.

“I’m tired of seeing places town down,” Gibson said. “Once there’s nothing there, how long is it going to sit with nothing happening?”

“If it doesn’t get taken down, how long before its not up to code and we have a blighted property?” responded Councilman Dan Weand, who serves with Gibson on the borough’s Blighted Property Committee.

“I go through there every day and it won’t be long before they’re throwing bottles and other junk in there,” Gibson predicted.

He said it will be similar to the building which burned in 2010 at the corner of Walnut and North Charlotte streets.

“That’s a hot spot now. How long has that sat there empty and every few months, we have to call Codes and then they come out and clean it up,” Gibson said.

This is how the corner of North Hanover and East streets looked before
the Frederick Brothers mill was torn down.
Borough Council President Stephen Toroney sympathized, noting that in his ward, the former Frederick Brothers Lumber Mill at the corner of N. Hanover and East streets was long vacant and a danger, and is now nothing more than “a rubble pile. And I know it will remain a rubble pile long after I am dead and gone. But it wasn’t safe and it had to come down.”

“Maybe the way we should look at it is we’re lowering the property owners maintenance costs and then he can invest that money in developing the property,” Weand said.

Miller said he hoped to post a photo-shopped poster of what the property might look like when its re-developed “and market it and find out what would work best there and how to renovate it.”

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