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Deadline passes for demolition site

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Ann Fiore
November 7, 2007
— Another demolition deadline has come and gone, but the Jeffris Theater’s partial walls still stand.

Demolition continued Tuesday at the old theater, 319 W. Milwaukee St., even though Monday ended a 30-day deadline city officials gave redeveloper Jim Grafft when the city condemned the building in October.


Jay Winzenz, assistant director of administrative services, said the city has not determined its next step after condemnation.


The last resort, he said, would be for the city to demolish the building.


“It’s not a decision we take lightly,” said Winzenz, who visited the work site Monday.


Grafft has been demolishing the back end of the downtown theater since August so he can build a parking lot.


On Oct. 4, the city condemned the partially demolished building after an engineer said it was unstable.


City officials issued a 30-day deadline and required Grafft to fence the property, hire security guards, brace the walls and build temporary roofs over sidewalks.


The YWCA moved some residents from nearby Jeffris Flats to a motel because of safety concerns.


Grafft has defended the slow pace of the demolition, saying it affects other buildings and must be done by hand. He said work stopped when asbestos was found in bricks buried behind two layers of plaster.


On Tuesday, Grafft confirmed that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has declared the site clear of asbestos.


However, contention still exists between Grafft and the city.


Grafft said he needs a letter from the YWCA’s engineer, saying the theater and Jeffris Flats have been separated properly. The buildings are connected by a staircase, plumbing and the roof.


Without the letter, Grafft said he’ll have to stop demolition when he reaches the staircase for liability reasons.


Winzenz countered that the city sent Grafft a letter Oct. 25, saying the area had been inspected and is structurally independent.


“I’m not sure what he’s looking for at this point,” Winzenz said.


“We’re the responsible agent for determining compliance with building codes, not some third party.”



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