Gressley building targeted for demolition

Saturday, December 29, 2012
The former Gressley shoe repair building in Milford is being targeted for demolition in early 2013. City leaders are purchasing the property in an effort to improve parking access for downtown businesses.

Milford's effort to spruce up the downtown business district could take another step forward over the next few months.

The city is in the process of acquiring the former Gressley shoe repair building on the east side of Okoboji Avenue (U.S. Highway 71) in downtown Milford.

"Earlier this year, the Milford Municipal Utilities and United Community Bank partnered up to do a downtown storefront renovation project, which we've seen the fruits of already. A number of buildings have renovated storefronts," said Milford City Administrator Matt Skaret. "Unfortunately, not all of the storefronts can be renovated or are in a condition where we can really do much."

The city's downtown storefront rehabilitation committee approached the city council in the summer of 2012 about demolishing the building south of Ace Hardware at 914 Okoboji Avenue.

"That building is one of the buildings they determined they can't really do anything with," Skaret said. "It's beyond repair."

The city is willing to purchase the property as a way to encourage the ongoing storefront renovation effort.

"First thing's first. In order for the city to demolish the building, the city needs to obtain the title to the building," Skaret said. "And, before we wanted to get head over heels in this project, the council decided to have a hazardous materials asbestos survey done of the building. That is one of the requirements before demolition. Any hazardous materials have to be abated and removed from the property in a lawful manner."

Engineering and testing services out of Sioux Falls conducted the inspection. They uncovered a concentration of asbestos in a 30-square-foot area on the chimney.

The city is in talks with the property's owner Rod Simonson, of Simonson Properties Inc. Simonson plans on funding the asbestos removal. The city will take the asbestos abatement into consideration when the sides settle on an asking price.

City leaders hope the demolition - and newly-created open space - will complement the previously-purchased Smith lot.

"The (Milford) Commercial Club has some ideas," Skaret said. "But if the project goes forward and the building is demolished, the intent is to have a green space in there and a walkway. People will be able to park in the old Smith lot and be able to access downtown Highway 71 and the main street there. They can park off the busy highway and still have easy access."

The lot is just to the east of Milford's main downtown area.

"One of the problems that has been associated with downtown is: People have complained for years about the parking, or the lack thereof," Skaret said. "The parking that exists is right on Highway 71, which is very high traffic. Some businesses consider that a detriment. Other communities would kill to have the problem that we have -- with the amount of traffic going through our downtown."

Skaret thinks the Gressley building will be knocked down sometime in the spring of 2013.

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