Why downtown Detroit's Wurlitzer Building poses danger
Published: May 4, 2011
"The defendant has failed to comply with and otherwise completely ignored these corrective orders, and accordingly has been issued well over 100 blight violations."
Among other problems noted in the complaint is the fire escape, which is "dilapidated, broken, not properly secured to the building, tearing away from the parapet wall, pulling a huge portion of exterior brick away from the building structure and is otherwise on the verge of collapse onto the alley which is traveled by vehicles and pedestrians."
The complaint goes on to note that "all the way around the building" brick and pieces of facade are "deteriorated, crumbling, cracking ... and actually falling from the building to the ground in areas of high pedestrian and vehicular traffic, and also directly above the People Mover."
Among other things, the owner was ordered to "immediately erect a safe and properly designed protective pathway in the rear alley and front sidewalk. ..." As of Tuesday, the area at the rear of the building remained opened.
There was also an order to remove the fire escape within 10 days. That deadline came and went without action being taken.
James says failure to comply with demands made in the complaint is a misdemeanor offence that can result in a fine and/or as many as 90 days in jail.
As for Chris Jaszczak, he isn't sleeping all that easy these days, worried that more stone could come crashing down at any time. The concern is that next time it won't be just a fractured roof and smashed glass that results.
The next time, someone could be hurt. Even killed.
It is not a problem unique to the Wurlitzer Building. As Francis Grunow, former head of the nonprofit group Preservation Wayne, notes, the city is hard-pressed to find the staff and money to keep on top of all the vacant downtown buildings that have fallen into disrepair.
But it is likely that difficult job would get a lot easier if officials started seeking jail time for the owners of buildings as dangerous as the Wurlitzer.
It would send a clear message that the city is serious about keeping the rest of us safe from those whose buildings pose a real threat.
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