The Denison City Council returned to previous business Monday voting unanimously to approve the demolition of a commercial building at 2301 S. Austin Ave. The future of the more than 10,000-square-foot building was last discussed in early February, but the council initially took no action and gave the property owners time to develop a plan for restoring the facility.
City staff recommended demolition of the building, saying the plans submitted by the owners did not remedy the overarching problems and damage to the building. Similarly, multiple members of the council voiced their disappointment in the plan that was presented.
“The plan that they presented wasn’t a plan to renovate,” Building Official Betty Floyd said before Monday’s meeting. “It was a plan to clean up.”
In the February meeting, the building was one of several structures that were deemed unsafe by city staff and were slated to be added to the demolition list. During the February discussions, Property Owner Amna Alsarabi and Amer Masri, who is listed as the contractor for the project, asked for a reprieve from demolition.
Floyd said the building was open when city staff went in to document the conditions. At some point, vandals had removed equipment from the roof of the building twice, leaving a hole in the roof that let moisture in the building.
In documents for Monday’s meeting, city staff said Alsarabi did not respond to requests to hold a meeting to discuss the requirements for the plan. Masri applied for a building permit on Feb. 26, but it was denied as it did not detail the scope of work needed for the remodel. Masri returned to the office again on March 1 and was informed that the application for permit was not enough to meet the requirements for a plan.
The building permit request lists the value of the project at $3,000 and describes the work as “clean up on the inside of the building and fix the outside shell as well. Make the inside as empty building. Remove as debris and trash.”
The document does not list any plumbing, mechanical or electrical contractors for the project.
Floyd said for the plan to be accepted by the city, it would need to have included information on the potential for asbestos abatement, work on heating and air, electrical wiring and plumbing. This would have required the opinions of an electrician, plumber and architect, she said.
Alsarabi said she believes her plans fell within what was agreed to during the February meeting. She said she wanted to reduce the building to a shell state and leave it for a future tenant to complete and outfit to meet their needs.
Members of the council noted that renovations would be needed to bring the building up to compliance with city code and would likely go well beyond simply making the building a shell.
“I have a hard time waiting for a tenant, because that could be five years from now,” Mayor Pro Tem Kris Spiegel said.
Alsarabi added that she was reluctant to fully renovate the building with no tenants in line, only for it to be vandalized again. She appeared to lay blame on the Denison Police Department for the previous damage that was done to the structure.
“Don’t throw them under the bus,” Spiegel said, noting there was no security active at the building. “It is not their job to secure your building.”
Other members of the council also voiced their disappointment and frustration with the lack of progress on the project, noting that more time was given than with most other cases, but little came of it.
Council member and Mayor-elect Janet Gott said she personally had contacted the city about the property multiple times and added that she felt it has been an eyesore for some time.
Council member Michael Baecht shared Spiegel’s sentiments and said he felt the last month should have been spent researching ways to repair the building and bring it up to compliance with code.
Traditionally, in the event that a demolition is appealed, the council will give the applicant 10 days to pull a permit for renovation work and six months to complete the work. However, Alsarabi said she was unsure if this would be enough time to complete the work. At the time, she estimated that the cost of the project would be about $500,000.
Alsarabi said she was unsure how city staff took pictures inside the building, as it was secure before the meeting.
This is the second time that code enforcement has pursued action against the site following damage and vandalism in 2015 that left the building open and unsecured. At the time, the owner of the previous property boarded up the building.