‘Demolition Days’ Coming to Downtown Evansville

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After years of being an eyesore at one of the gateways downtown, the former Harpole’s bar, also known as Woody’s, is a pile of bricks and debris. It will be one of three major demolition projects happening in downtown Evansville over the next couple of weeks, none of which are coming at the cost of the taxpayers, according to Building Commissioner Ron Beane.

In addition to the ongoing demolition at Harpole’s, the fire-gutted building at 217 Main Street and unsightly Riverhouse Annex building will be demolished. The century-old building at 217 Main Street was damaged beyond repair by a fire in late June and will be demolished using money provided to the city by the insurance company.The annex building’s condition is the byproduct of years of neglect and the demolition will be funded through the private property owner’s coffers.

“I estimate it’s a little over $300,000 in demolition costs that will be absorbed by the individual owners and it will cost the city nothing,” Beane said.

Demolition of 217 Main Street should begin on Monday, Beane said, while the annex building’s demolition could begin later that week as soon as crews remove the asbestos from the building.

While the city oftentimes is forced to demolish residential or commercial structures at the taxpayers’ expense, that won’t be the case this time. Beane said the city has been working with the owner of Harpole’s for quite some time to have the building demolished but never sought administrative action.

However, that is not the case with the Riverhouse.

Through code enforcement’s administrative action process, city officials sought a repair order on the main Riverhouse building in addition to a raze order on the annex building. Furthermore, the city also required the owner to put up a fence around part of the property.

Each case is different, Beane said, but many times the end goal is the same.

“There are millions of dollars in demolitions that we could drive around and identify right away. We have to get the worst of the worst,” Beane said. “Anytime we have a shot at getting the owners to pay for it, we really make a point of making that effort.”

The future of 219 Main Street remains a bit murky. It too was severely damaged by the fire in mid-June. However, Jane Tang, the owner of the building, does not appear to have insurance and has refused to return the city’s phone calls, Beane said.

The building is coming down no matter what though.

The City Council recently appropriated $300,000 in riverboat gambling money to cover the cost of demolishing 219 Main Street. After the building has been demolished, the city will place a lien on on the property. If Tang does not pay off the lien, the property could go through the tax sale process, giving anyone the opportunity to buy the building, assuming they pay off the lien.

The city can also opt to take legal action against Tang. Beane expects the insurance companies of the neighboring property owners are expected to join in that lawsuit as well, assuming one is filed.

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