Aaction Equipment Warehouse 2.6.17.jpg (copy)

The former site of the Aaction Equipment warehouse in Decatur is shown on Feb. 16. 

JIM BOWLING, HERALD & REVIEW

The three-story warehouse was once an economic engine for Decatur, built more than a century ago by Faries Manufacturing Co., maker of furniture and other products. During World War II, a defense contract was secured and, in its last chapter, the building was home to a restaurant gear business, Aaction Equipment.

Today, 1060 E. Grand Ave. is noteworthy for being something altogether different: it is an embarrassing and dangerous eyesore.

In early 2015, flames gutted and brought the structure down into a heap. Incredibly, the site has remained that way ever since

Neighbors across the street have a view that looks like something left after the bombing of Dresden – twisted metal, charred timbers, shards of glass and hundreds of brick piled on nearly the entire 1300 block of North Illinois Street. Rust, weeds and who knows what else have been growing there for two years. Festering. 

Because there was no insurance and the owner died, the case requires the courts to sort it out, a painfully slow progression.

All the while, the debris has sat.

As reported by the Herald & Review today, city officials are rightfully frustrated with the process and are exploring stepping in and demolishing it. The details are still being sorted out, but a $300,000 price tag is projected.

It is a lot of money, and while there should be skepticism whenever public monies are used for a private land-use purpose, this clearly is an extraordinary situation.

Something must be done.

That this scene is on a major corridor, that neighbors have to see this every morning and night, that pedestrians have to dodge bricks spilled onto a sidewalk are all unacceptable. This would never happen in a more affluent neighborhood. A dumping ground would never be allowed to take root, regardless of any legal limbo.

Such a property sends the wrong message about our values and self-worth. The negative impact on property values is terrible. The negative impact on community morale is unconscionable.

We realize there are other empty buildings in our community, ones worthy of demolition. The city in February counted more than 100 buildings on its demolition list, from the massive Coppenbarger School on East Condit Street to numerous single-family homes that have fallen into disrepair and blight neighborhoods.

Addressing this topic is a priority for the city, but funding is always an issue. In the case of the East Grand Avenue site, we hope the city can use grants to offset the expense or recoup the money in the legal system.

It’s time.

Those who live and work around this mess need to see it erased for good.

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