GR to owners: Secure ‘structurally unsafe’ buildings

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The City of Grand Rapids has ordered owners to secure two downtown buildings that have been deemed “structurally unsafe.”

Concerned that bricks could fall on passing pedestrians, the city last week blocked off the sidewalk in front of the buildings at 35 and 41 S. Division Avenue on the southwest corner of Weston Street.generic sidewalk closed

The city Thursday issued a notice to abate, which demands the owners take measures to prevent anyone unauthorized from entering the buildings.

Passersby can see shifted glass and missing bricks on the building fronts. They seem to be leaning in on one another. From the back of the buildings, years of neglect are obvious, but structural damage is not.

Mark DeClercq, the city’s engineer, says the buildings are “structurally unsafe.”

“There is an underlying soil issue located immediately beneath the two buildings that is causing significant structural problems to the Division side of the structure,” he said in a statement.

The city says it has been working with the buildings’ owners Richard and WIllam VanGessel and Jim Heeringa since December that the pair are weighing their options.

The problems at 35 and 41 S. Division didn’t start in December. The harsh winter, however, may have made brick and facade work even more susceptible to crumbling.

A statement from the city is telling. Released Wednesday, it says the city’s Building Code Office is expected to issue other official notices that the owners will have to answer.

The Michigan Department of Transportation said Thursday the City of Grand Rapids has requested a permit to close a portion of S. Division in front of the buildings due to concerns about falling debris. On Friday, MDOT said the right lane of Division Ave around the building would be closed until early July.

Thursday, DeClerq declined to comment on camera. Mark Fleet of the Building Code Office also declined to comment, sending a messenger to say he was busy when 24 Hour News 8 arrived at the lobby of the city office building where he works. Calls to the city attorney’s office and to the only number 24 Hour News 8 could find for a building owner were not returned.

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