Citizens push for abandoned mall demolitionPublished 10:47am Wednesday, January 20, 2010
By AARON MUELLER
Niles Daily Star
More than 50 Niles Township residents and business owners gathered for the Niles Township Board meeting Tuesday evening to urge the board to hurry in its pursuit to demolish the long-abandoned Eastgate Plaza.
The board responded to the community’s concerns and got the ball rolling on removing the abandoned building.
The board unanimously voted to authorize Township Attorney Chris Lynch to commence litigation seeking an order to allow the demolition of Eastgate and allow the township to assess all costs of demolishing the building from property owner MoorPark LLC of Van Nuys, Calif.
The action earned the applause of nearly everyone in attendance.
It’s the first step toward getting rid of the boarded-up strip mall on Oak Street, vacant since 2006.
Nearly everyone in attendance at the meeting was in favor of razing Eastgate, citing criminal activity at the building and safety hazards as reasons to hurry in demolishing the building.
Scott Clark is one of several business owners near Eastgate, who said the “eyesore” has hurt business.
“There’s a lot of riff raff around there,” he said. “We’ve gone through crime sprees. We just really need to get this taken care of. Tearing it down would make a lot of people happy.”
The Rev. Thomas King is the pastor of St. Mark Catholic Church, which is located behind Eastgate.
“I am an eyewitness to the back end of Eastgate,” King said. “It is a health hazard. Trash is routinely dumped. This is a disgrace.”
King also said he has seen youth go inside the building.
“And they’re not buying apples inside,” he said. “It is criminal to keep this place up.”
The only concern for some members of the community and board members? The cost.
“I am not in disfavor of tearing it down,” Niles resident Owen Baldwin said. “But do not spend township money. I don’t want it coming out of my pocket.”
Jerry French, representing Southwestern Michigan Economic Growth Alliance, said there may be local foundations who could cover some of the cost of the demolition.
Initial estimates were between $72,000 and $350,000, although the price may be much higher in order to demolish it in an environmentally safe way.
According to Lynch, during the litigation process, MoorPark will have the opportunity to enter in and clean it up itself – albeit an unlikely scenario, considering the township has given the company multiple notices to take action on the building over the past four years.
Lynch also explained to the board that the litigation does not commit the township to pay for the demolition.
Still, there are residents who wouldn’t mind the township paying the bill as long as it meant a quick removal of the building.
“It wouldn’t bother me to use taxpayer money,” Clark said. “I’d be happy with just grass there.”
The 52-acre property was once a community hotspot in the 1960s and 70s, featuring more than 20 businesses.