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August 12, 2020

7/15/2020 11:33:00 AM
Downtown buildings lost?
City facing possible razing of 2 key structures
504 East O&M Ave.
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504 East O&M Ave.
227 East Walnut
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227 East Walnut
The North Vernon City Council agreed there was nothing they could do to save one of the downtown's historic buildings from the wrecking ball at their meeting Monday night, July 13. That being the case, the issue of proceeding with razing 504 East O&M Avenue will be back on the Area Plan agenda on August 3.

It is expected the APC board will then vote to ask the court to issue an order to raze the three-story building at the corner of Fifth Street and East O&M. That building and 462 E. O&M both had previously housed Greathouse Hardware and were both purchased by Indianapolis resident Jerry Greene in summer 2017 after they went un- sold at a public auction.

Brian Hatfield, city representative on the APC board, had asked fellow APC members to give the City Council a chance to consider what, if anything, could be done to save the building when the APC met July 6.

Monday night, APC Director Marie Shepherd broached the subject, noting owner Greene had obtained a building permit to work on the building but that the permit has since expired. She also said 504 had already been condemned by the zoning board. At that time, 504's rear addition had fallen in and Greene was ordered to clean up the hazard. A video of the tear-down is on the newspaper's web site.

Greene notified Mayor Ochs in June that his dream of revitalizing both 504 and 462 East O&M Avenue had come to an end due to personal financial problems precipitated by COVID-19. He said he would put both buildings up for sale.

Monday, the members expressed their regret about the situation, but were adamant the situation needs to move forward.
"We can't let our city rot," said Baron Wilder. "If it is condemned, we need to tear it down."

The cost of the demolition would be borne by the owner, if and when the court makes the ruling, said Shepherd. A lien would be placed on their property tax record. At this point, taxes on 504 are up to date.

Shepherd also warned the councilors that just because this matter is taken to court is no guarantee the structure will come down any time soon or at all.

"It is not automatic," she said, as the owner has the option to appear in court and plead his or her case.

The same is true of another building's fate in downtown North Vernon.

Known as the "Redman Building," or "old K&G" building, the three-story structure at 227 East Walnut Street, right on the downtown corridor, was condemned June 22, 2020.

The structure had previously been inspected last year, with Shepherd noting in a letter to city officials that it "has deteriorated even more since we inspected it approximately 6 months ago."

Sheherd noted the intentions of the Area Plan is to start the process of obtaining a timeline from owner Tom Taylor to fix the building up or to obtain a demolition order.

Greene's response

Jerry Greene responded to an inaccurate report on Facebook that the city had "voted" to raze his building at their meeting Monday night.

As noted above, the city discussed the matter briefly but held no vote as to the fate of the structure. That decision is the Area Plan's.

In his post, Greene said it took "a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get the building to where it is today" and that he was "warned" not to buy the building due to small town "toxic politics and infighting".

The buildings, he wrote, "were tear-downs when I bought them" and "had been neglected for over the last half century."

"I spent close to a $100,000 of my own savings to try to restore these these buildings I guess that wasn't enough."

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