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Dangerous buildings receive scrutiny

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by Karen E. Culp

SBJ Staff

Dangerous buildings in Springfield are one of Jerry King's top concerns, and he has dedicated a lot of his time to that concern lately.

The Building Development Services Department at the city of Springfield is responsible for keeping buildings safe, said King, acting director of the department. The department inspects buildings for their safety if the office receives a service request for that building.

Any member of the public can place a service request. The city's public information office collects the requests and distributes them to the departments that can best deal with the type of services needed.

Service requests may come in that are health concerns, for example, King said, or a service request may have to do with the building's zoning or whether it is dangerous. In the latter two cases, the building development services department is responsible for sending an inspector to evaluate the building, King said.

The inspectors can also check a building out if they observe it to be potentially in violation.

The city department is made up of 11 inspectors, four of whom are building inspectors. The other inspectors deal with mechanical, electrical, plumbing, elevator and zoning concerns.

King said he has "spent a lot of time" on dangerous buildings since he became acting director of the department three months ago. That is in part because of a new state provision that allows the city to actually place a lien on dangerous buildings and collect funds for the purpose of securing those buildings, King said.

"We've got to keep the buildings secure. We'll do whatever it takes; if that means taking the building down, we'll do that to keep it safe," King said.

The department prefers for a building's owner to tear down the building, but will do it if it must be done, King said.

Once a building is listed as danger-

ous, a hearing is held with that building's owners to determine what needs to be done.

During the hearing, the owners are usually given a time line for making the repairs, King said, and if they do not make the repairs in time, the department begins

to look at how it can get the repairs


In some cases, King said, he likes to meet with the building owners right away, as in the case of a building fire.

"When there's a fire and the building is going to have to have work, I like to meet with the owners right then and there to see about getting something done," King said.

Though the downtown area has a number of older, empty buildings, which have the greatest potential of becoming dangerous, dangerous buildings are not concentrated anywhere, King said, and are mixed between residential and commercial.

Some building owners and developers say they have noticed an increase in the number of buildings listed as dangerous, and the requisite requests for alterations to those buildings.

Dan Scott, an architect who has worked on several restoration projects in the downtown area, said he has observed more notices of dangerous buildings, and that means the city is working harder to keep buildings clean and safe.

Dennis Radford-Kapp, who recently learned of a building he owned being listed, agreed.

"The city is just trying to clean things up, and they should be concerned about these things. A lot of these buildings have been neglected for so long," Radford-Kapp said. His building at the corner of Campbell and Park Central West will have to be repaired by June 15.

He said the recent interest in dangerous buildings is the result of a change

in the overall thinking about old buildings.

"It used to be that owners of these buildings did not plan to fix them or change them in any way. Now, we're moving from that attitude of negligence to a more renovation-minded thinking," Radford-Kapp said.

Tim Rosenbury, architect and partner with Butler, Rosenbury & Partners and part owner of the Seville and Marquette Hotels, said the city is getting more assertive in protecting the buildings and protecting the public.

"I think it makes good sense that the building department is trying to get things secured. It just makes things better for everybody," Rosenbury said.

The Marquette is now listed as dangerous, Rosenbury said, and is shuttered, but he said he had not received any notification that the Seville is listed.

King said he hopes to be pro-active in securing dangerous buildings.

"One lesson I've learned is that you can't wait on these things. As soon as we have the appropriate evidence that this is dangerous and needs to be fixed, we need to get it done. There's nothing to be gained by waiting on these things," King said.

King has been acting department head since Bob Turner resigned as department head about three months ago.

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