The city of Springfield is seeking court orders to take
possession of eight vacant, dilapidated apartment buildings so that they can be
The structures are part of the 23-building Olde Towne apartment complex, located at the corner of Jefferson Street and Bruns Lane. City officials are also seeking to have the owner rehabilitate four occupied buildings on the site.investors who city officials say have told them they lack the money to make the necessary changes. The current owners purchased the property at auction in November 2020 and paid $5,250,000 for the 218-unit property, according to Sangamon County tax records.
“There are eight buildings that have been ‘condemned,’ but
they are all vacant already,” said Kateah McMasters, senior assistant corporation
counsel. “We did not vacate those. They've been vacant for at least two, if not
three years – maybe even longer.”
She said the city is midway through the condemnation process
for five of the buildings and has just begun the legal process for the other three.
“A lot of those vacant buildings either don't have secure
floors or there's other structural issues,” Ethan Posey, director of community
relations, said. “There are broken windows, there's mold. And from a public
safety perspective, when you have vacant buildings that are open like that, (homeless
people) – especially when it gets cold – break into those buildings and start a
fire for warmth. And that's something that could either kill them or start a
fire that could burn down the whole complex. So demolishing those buildings is
really more for the safety of the people who live in buildings that are
currently occupied there.”
The city administration has set aside $600,000 in its
proposed budget to raze the structures.
McMasters said there are less-serious building code
violations in four occupied buildings in the complex. She declined to identify
the nature of violations.
“The problems are not immediate dangers,” she said. “We just
don't want to cause any kind of unnecessary panic because these things can
sometimes spread and get blown out of proportion,” she said.
City officials say there are 47 apartments in the occupied
buildings in which they are seeking repairs.
“Structurally, those buildings are sound that everyone lives
in,” Fire Marshal Todd Taylor said. “And they passed everything they needed to
for fire safety inspection. … There are still open issues, but the fire alarm
systems have been restored and are in working condition.”
City staff is working with the building’s project management
company in hopes of resolving the issues.
“Any given building probably has at least a couple
violations, but they are not to the extent that we are ready to close down
those buildings, by any stretch of the imagination,” McMasters said. … “There
are four additional buildings that do have some heightened safety concerns that
we are contemplating shutting down, but we are not there yet because we are
trying to resolve those issues.”
Posey said the city does not want to see anyone lose their
“If we're not able to reach a resolution here, we're making
sure that people don't just end up out on the street,” he said. “We're finding
appropriate, alternate housing for them that's also price comfortable.”
Flyers were posted around the complex informing tenants that
caseworkers from Fifth Street Renaissance would be on hand Jan. 10 “to work to
relocate those affected by the building condemnation.” After some tenants took
to social media to ask questions and express concerns, Penny Powell, executive
director of Fifth Street Renaissance, posted a statement in response that read
“As a neutral party and a social service organization (that)
operates multiple programs serving the needs of those experiencing homelessness
or near homelessness, our only goal is to ensure that no one becomes unhoused.
We are not forcing anyone to participate, encouraging anyone to move or stop
paying their rent. We are only informing tenants of available assistance and
assessing for program eligibility if requested.”
Scott Reeder, a staff writer for Illinois Times, can
be reached at [email protected].