LORAIN — The city is hoping to demolish the fire-ravaged Thistle Building on Broadway by the end of the week.
But until then, the street and neighboring buildings remain closed to the public.
Fire Chief Matt Homolya said the city’s engineer has deemed the building structurally unsound.
Just after 12:30 a.m. Sunday, firefighters arrived at 700 Broadway, once used as a department store and most recently as a sober-living home, to fight flames shooting from the building.
The Xanadu Studio at 702 Broadway sustained water damage, and the Charleston Building at 710 Broadway was evacuated. Neither will be opened until the Thistle Building is demolished.
“There’s still potential for collapse or for bricks to fall off,” Homolya said. “We’re here to make sure the street is closed and to make sure no one is injured.”
Homolya said the building owner’s insurance company likely will evaluate the structure before demolition is scheduled.
“It’s pretty obvious to us what needs to happen,” Homolya said. “Hopefully we can make things happen pretty quick.”
State investigators have been brought in to determine the cause of the fire, but that, too, will take some time. He said state investigators will need samples from inside the building, but they’re not yet able to get in.
Safety-Service Director Dan Given said the fire was “suspicious in nature.”
Given noted the building had been issued several notices of code violations through the years, dating as far back as 2001.
According to a complaint worksheet dated Aug. 15, 2002, the Building Department cited the owner of 700 Broadway for violations on windows, exterior walls and concrete walls Oct. 18, 2001.
Notices were sent until Nov. 8, 2001, at which point the owner said he needed an extension to abate the issues.
Another complaint was called in about the building in July 2002 and, according to the complaint worksheet, in Aug. 13, 2002, Building Department staff members “gave (then-Safety-Service Director) Craig Miller a copy of the violations to see if we are sending another notice to abate.”
Two days later, Building Department staff members were told to “close this file per Craig Miller,” according to the complaint worksheet.
Miller was convicted of obstruction of justice after becoming involved in a police investigation into whether the sewer superintendent, Doug Johnson, had rented heavy equipment he owned to the city in 2002 and 2003.
“There have been a number of violations that the Building Department has been trying to address, but one of the problems is every few years the building changes hands,” Given said.
According to the Lorain County auditor’s website, the building’s current owner, Thomas Green, purchased the building in 2004 for $169,000, but the online records don’t go back further.
Given also said that while the city’s Building Department issues citations for code violations for the buildings along Broadway, there’s only so much they can do.
“We’re regularly inspecting the buildings, but our biggest problem is you have people who play the game and get cited, but they don’t show up in court or anything like that,” he said. “How can we punish them if they don’t go in front of a judge?”
The Building Department cited Green as recently as May 25 and July 12 for violations relating to the roof, drainage, interior surfaces, doors, bathrooms and other unsafe conditions.