Wurlitzer Building is still crumbling
Problem drags on; People Mover affidavit cited risks
Published: March 6, 2012
Eventually, gravity did the work Curtis was supposed to have done, with large sections of brick falling off. Fortunately, no one was injured.
But the building remains an extreme danger.
A spokeswoman for the People Mover tells News Hits that the track nearby is checked regularly to make sure it hasn't been damaged by falling debris. And a representative of the city's Buildings, Safety Engineering & Environmental Department tells us that orders to make the building safe have yet to be fully complied with.
For one thing the roof of the Wurlitzer is still leaking badly. As a result, the building's degradation is an ongoing problem.
Last November, attorneys for the city filed a motion asking Judge Colombo to find Curtis in contempt for failing to repair the building as ordered by the court. The judge declined to do that.
However, Colombo tells News Hits, "This is the most important case on my docket. I remain worried that someone is going to be hurt or killed."
Some progress has been made. The building has been closed off to trespassers. Scaffolding has been erected to protect people walking on the sidewalk along Broadway. A fence blocks access to the alley at the rear of the building, an area strewn with hundreds of fallen bricks. And the Wurlitzer now has electricity, which will allow further work to be accomplished.
But much work still remains to be completed before the building can be considered safe, and the going remains slow.
Michael Muller, the city attorney in charge of this case, says that 1509 Broadway LLC has no property insurance. Consequently, anyone victim of falling debris is unlikely to be compensated for their grief. The same goes for the city if the People Mover is damaged.
As Muller explains it, the city is in a difficult position. Detroit, which is on the brink of insolvency and in danger of being put under the control of an emergency manager, would be hard-pressed to take over the property and repair or demolish it. And putting Curtis in jail might not do much good, Muller says, if the problem is a lack of funds on his part.
We're not so sure. Some time behind bars could significantly increase the motivation for Paul Curtis to sell the property to someone who would not just keep it from being a public hazard, but would renovate it and turn it back into a community asset.
But that's just an opinion.
What we are sure of is that this problem has been going on for at least a decade, and that a serious threat remains.
Just ask Chris Jaszczak, who has been sleeping with one eye open for the past year, waiting for the next crash to come.
Post script: As News Hits was going to press Monday, Jaszczak called to say high winds over the weekend took out most of the Wurlitzer's top floor's rear wall, which fell into the alley behind the building. With the support that wall provided now gone, a precarious situation appears to have grown even worse.
"It was very scary before," says Jaszczak. "It's even scarier now."
> Email Curt Guyette