By Amanda Amsel
Demolition of the Metro West Apartments began last week after a lengthy dispute with the Prairie Township Trustees and the apartment owners Showgates, LLC and Windgate, LLC.
“Demolition started with a smaller utility building and then demolition of one of the larger buildings will begin,” said Tracy Hatmaker, Prairie Township administrator. “In all, 17 buildings will be torn down.”
Each week, two buildings will be demolished until all 17 are gone. It is anticipated the demolition will be complete by the end of April.
“It feels great to finally start getting them torn down,” Hatmaker said. “I actually had to go over and see it myself.”
The process of demolishing these buildings has been a long time coming. In 2004, a fire started at the apartments that killed 10 people. Since the fire, according the township officials, the buildings have been a safety hazard for the community.
Township officials said for the past few years they have tried to work with the owners of the property to either renovate the damaged buildings or tear them down.
Recently, the owners of the apartments filed a temporary restraining order to try and delay the township from starting demolition.
“The temporary retraining order was denied by the judge, allowing us to move forward with the demolition,” Hatmaker said. “They could appeal this judgment, but the judge made a solid statement in our favor and we have a very strong case.”
If the owner’s did win an appeal, the township would potentially have to pay damages for tearing down the buildings because their actions could not be reversed.
“It is what it is, this company has taken every action to delay this, so nothing would surprise me,” said Steve Kennedy, Prairie Township trustee. “However, the property is worth more with the buildings torn down.”
The cost of the demolition is estimated at $2 million and would be added to the owner’s property tax.
The money to demolish the property is coming from the Ohio Community Improvement Corporation and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s Moving Ohio Forward grant.
A crew of 40 people is doing demolition of the buildings from Lowendick Demolition.