Stabilization begins, lawsuit continues over vacant - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Stabilization begins, lawsuit continues over vacant Ensley tower

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Construction and the removal of asbestos are underway at a vacant building in Birmingham.

But a group is suing the city for not demolishing what it calls "an environmental hazard." The litigation centers on the Ramsay McCormick Building in Ensley.

The lawsuit was dropped but litigation started again in 2012.  The new trial was delayed two weeks ago, giving city leaders time to stabilize the building.

Attorney Antonio Spurling, who is representing a group of business and community members, says the work is too little too late.

"Bricks fall off the building daily, glass blows out into the streets. It's just an unsafe structure," Spurling says.

Spurling also says the 10-story tower also negatively impacts property values. Jimmy Crane, who owns the nearby Gilmer Drug Company, says he sees the crews working but he's not impressed.

"To put a fence up with barb wire around it makes it look like small prison," Crane says.

For the last two weeks, crews have been sealing windows, removing asbestos and placing a fence around the property. Operation New Birmingham/ Main Street is working with the city to stabilize the building. ONB President David Fleming says the city had two choices: either spend nearly $1 million to tear it down or spend money to stabilize it. A city source tells ABC 33/40 nearly $800,000 will go toward stabilizing the structure.

Fleming says city leaders are in talks now with a developer to purchase the property. But some people like, business owner Steve Ward, say they've heard that before.

"They've talked about that for the past 30 years, that someone was going to do something with the building, and it has never materialized," Ward says.

Court records show the city set a deadline of March 2014 to complete the stabilization. Spurling wants the building demolished. He says he doesn't plan to drop his lawsuit unless that happens.

"We have no intentions of relenting," Spurling says.

There is no trial date set at this time. However, court records show a city attorney plans to turn over all updates on the building's stabilization to the Jefferson County Circuit Court.


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