This building at 617 N. Pine St. in downtown Burlington is targeted for demolition under a plan currently being considered by the city’s Common Council. (Photo by Ed Nadolski)

Final decision is slated for Nov. 2 meeting

By Jason Arndt

Staff Writer

A blighted building on Pine Street that city officials previously called an eyesore could be slated for demolition under a proposed contract with Gunderson Excavating, Inc.

Gunderson Excavating, Inc. and Disposal Service, one of two formal contractors who solicited bids, has offered to demolish the building at 617 N. Pine Street parcel for $76,750, including sidewalk replacement.

Carina Walters, city administrator, told the Common Council at Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting the long-vacant building has deteriorated since the former owner became delinquent on property taxes.

The building, which most recently contained apartments, has been vacant since 2014 after being ruled uninhabitable by officials. (Photo by Ed Nadolski)

The parcel includes several apartments, however, city officials said in 2018 the tenants have long vacated the property.

In 2017, six years after the initial issue, city officials petitioned Racine County to acquire the property from Burlington to remove taxing liability.

A year later, in May 2018 Racine County transferred ownership back the city, for which Burlington paid $6,194 in special assessments.

However, under the transfer of ownership, the city would be responsible for repaying $46,738.37 in back taxes to Racine County if the parcel ever undergoes a redevelopment project.

“During the initial discussions of the prior council, a recommendation was to create a parking lot allowing for the north Pine Street corridor and residents residing on the second floor of the mixed-use buildings to have a place to park,” Walters wrote in a council memorandum.

“Since the these initial thoughts, other suggestions have been identified including a park and/or complete development.”

While city officials examine the parcel’s future, including discussions with planning consultant Lakota Group, they are seeking Common Council approval to demolish the structure.

With demolition, said Walters, the Common Council would have more options for the future.

“Although no future use of the lot has been identified, at minimum, staff is moving forward with the demolition of the property and will solicit the planning expertise of Lakota Group for a highest and best use of the property allowing for the council to determine the parcel’s future fate,” Walters wrote.

Gunderson Excavating, according to the proposed resolution, will oversee and provide utility, sewer and water disconnection as well as removal of materials and concrete along with filling the basement.

Linda Fellenz, of LF Green, consulted with city staff on the proposed demolition and completed asbestos testing while creating bid specifications.

Alderman Thomas Preusker, of District 4, questioned Fellenz on Gunderson’s history with demolishing structures with probable asbestos.

Fellenz said Gunderson demolished the former Karcher Middle School, which included asbestos abatement.

Walters, meanwhile, said Gunderson offered the lowest bid among two contractors who submitted formal and written proposals to the city.

Wanasek Corporation offered to demolish the building at a cost of $109,000.

 

The Common Council plans to consider final approval of the demolition at a Nov. 2 meeting.

 

Limited options

Three years ago, when the council approved transfer of ownership, officials learned the building is an unsalvageable structure.

Gregory Guidry, city building inspector, said in 2018 the building condition continued to deteriorate.

“Now part of the building is fixable, but when we look at the whole building, it is way beyond repair,” Guidry said in August 2018 council meeting.

According to city records, the building’s electric and water supply was shut off in 2014, when Guidry’s predecessor declared the structure “uninhabitable.”

During initial discussions, mostly in closed sessions, the city examined other options such as converting the parcel into green space, similar to another property at 256 W. State Street now known as Martin Square.

Tommy Martin, a Burlington High School graduate, repurposed the parcel as part of an Eagle Scout project.

Martin Square, Walters said, came after the city solicited requests for possible redevelopment and did not receive any responses.