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Second home demolished by BK&M

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Last edited 3:20 p.m., June 26, 2023 [Editor's note: Additional context and a screenshot from the developer have been added.]

BK&M LLC has demolished a second home in the University Heights neighborhood. 

A wrecking permit was issued this morning for a Tudor-style cottage constructed of stone, brick and wood at 1133 E. Sunshine St., and demolition work began soon after. The house was located beside the corner property, 1755 S. National Ave., where a two-story white Colonial house was demolished in October 2022. 

Ralph Duda, spokesperson and a partner in BK&M, contacted Springfield Business Journal  to pass along a letter he had sent to city leadership this morning, and he noted that he would not be available this week for further comment. 

The letter contains allegations of misbehavior by members of the University Heights neighborhood where BK&M has purchased several homes with the intent of removing them to make way for a commercial development. 

In the letter, Duda wrote, “I am deeply concerned about the continued harassment and interference we are receiving from certain neighbors in University Heights. It has clearly become illegal, both hindering contractual businesses as well as defamation of character which is hurting me, my family and my business, among others.” 

Duda noted he purchased the house at 1133 E. Sunshine St. in 2022, and it was previously a dilapidated rental. 

“We invested thousands of dollars to get it rentable,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, it has sat vacant for months and has deteriorated for several reasons.” 

BK&M is seeking to rezone about 2.6 acres at the corner of Sunshine Street and National Avenue, including homes or former homes at 1739, 1745 and 1755 S. National Ave., 1138 E. University St., and 1111, 1119, 1133 and 1141 E. Sunshine St. 

The developer is eyeing a high-end restaurant or boutique grocery chain for the site, Duda told SBJ in an April interview. 

BK&M plans to remove, either by demolition or, Duda has said, by moving homes in the development area to other locations, if Springfield City Council changes zoning to allow for commercial development. Deed restrictions on the properties purchased by BK&M also must be adjudicated, and a bench trial is set for Aug. 28 to determine if restrictions against commercial development will be upheld. 

Duda’s letter states that, on two occasions, his real estate broker was showing the property to interested potential tenants when University Heights neighbors, unnamed by Duda, yelled, “You shouldn’t rent this house from Ralph Duda, he’s destroying our neighborhood [and] he’s a bad landlord.” 

Duda also states in his letter to the city that the University Heights Facebook page is telling the public not to rent the home.  

He included with his email to SBJ a copy of a Facebook Marketplace post by Cynthia Yarbrough, a Springfield resident who lives near University Heights. Yarbrough’s post included a photo of the home at 1133 E. Sunshine St. It stated, “One of the Duda homes is up for rent, not lease through this woman.” 

Duda said he interpreted the post to mean that potential renters should avoid doing business with his representative.  He also included a photograph of the home showing damage that had been done to the garage door of the home. 

“It sounds like drama,” Duda said this afternoon. “These are facts." 

Following these claims of harassment by neighborhood residents, the letter adds that the property has had back windows intentionally broken by rocks, two forced-entry break-ins, squatters leaving hypodermic syringes and the theft of interior doors, trim and hardware. 

Neighborhood resident Mark Fletcher, an opponent of the corner development and a plaintiff in the deed restriction case, said he doubted neighborhood residents are causing trouble at the property. 

“Most of our people are 60, 70, 80 years old,” he said. “I have a hard time believing they’re throwing rocks through windows.” 

Fletcher said he encourages people in the neighborhood not to engage with Duda. 

“I know my neighbors. I’m fairly confident none of them engaged in behavior like that,” he said. “Most people are intelligent enough to know that’s exactly what he wants.” 

Fletcher said people live in University Heights because they have a love for historic homes, and many have sacrificed a lot to live there and to maintain their historic properties. 

“It’s like a death,” he said of the demolition. “It’s a passing of things that are important that can’t be replaced.” 

Donna Hemann, president of the University Heights Neighborhood Association, when SBJ presented her with the allegations in Duda’s letter to the city, said she would not tolerate harassment allegations against neighborhood residents. 

“He’d better have some evidence of that, because I have a feeling it’s not going to be long before he has some lawsuits,” she said. “Mr. Duda should tread carefully.” 
She added that as president of the neighborhood association, she gets frequent calls about Duda. 

“There are some things that have gone on in this neighborhood that are stunning, and they’re so egregious, they really should be adjudicated,” she said. “It looks like he just doesn’t believe that even civility applies to him, let alone following things like deed restriction protocol.” 

She declined to provide examples of these alleged misdeeds. 

Hemann said it was hard to see another property demolished in the neighborhood. 

“It’s heartbreaking,” she said. 

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jeff sommer

Don't buy a house within a block of a major corridor and if you own one, now is the time to sell.

Monday, June 26, 2023
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