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Published: Friday, 8/22/2003

City armory sale runs into a snag

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A deteriorating building on Champlain Street has become the newest obstacle to the plan to sell the shuttered Bay View Armory.

Under legislation submitted by Mayor Jack Ford's staff, a condition for selling the armory to Carleton, Mich., businessman Roger Homrich is that he must demolish a building he owns at Champlain and Elm Street.

But council President Louis Escobar said he disagrees with the legislation and says the Bay View Armory should be sold outright to Mr. Homrich.

“Our primary responsibility is that armory,” Mr. Escobar said. “That building is getting worse with each drop of rain and each winter. It's going to be pretty bad if the city ends up tearing down that armory.”

Mr. Homrich owns the vacant Custom Container Corp. building at 1019-1029 Champlain.

Councilman Peter Gerken is the strongest advocate for making Mr. Homrich tear down or bring the building up to the standards of the building code in exchange for completing the armory sale.

“His building is a disgrace. The building as it stands today cannot be occupied,” Mr. Gerken said.

Mr. Gerken wants Mr. Homrich to trade the property for the armory, which would allow expansion of Union Memorial Park at Elm and Champlain.

Complicating the dispute is that Mr. Homrich maintains the city still owes him for sealing off access to a loading dock of the building when the city closed a portion of Elm in 1996.

The street was closed to allow construction of the Buckeye Basin Greenbelt Parkway and of Union Memorial Park, which commemorates the Electric Auto-Lite strike of 1934.

The city decided to close the street in front of the Custom Container Corp. loading dock because Mr. Homrich had obtained a permit to demolish the building.

However, Mr. Homrich changed his mind about the demolition, and learned about the street closure when he tried to sell the building.

Mr. Homrich was not available for comment, but his administrative assistant, Renee Miller, said that Mr. Homrich is still looking for restitution from the city.

City Law Director Barbara Herring said her department wrote a letter to Mr. Homrich's attorney in March, 2001, offering to reopen Elm if Mr. Homrich obtains an occupancy permit for his building. However, the law department has tried to find an alternative solution.

Mr. Escobar said the city had no right to block access to Mr. Homrich's property regardless of its condition.

“Take him to court, but don't tie it to another piece of property that we're allowing to deteriorate,” Mr. Escobar said. “How are we any different from him?”

Mr. Homrich's company, Bay View Port Authority Docks LLC, has agreed to buy the armory for $90,000 and use it for boat storage, the sale of boating equipment and supplies, and related office space.

The armory, built in 1936 and vacant since 1988, is at 3900 Summit St.

The measure was on council's agenda Tuesday, but was not acted on.



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