Sidewalk barricaded around Harwal

Sidewalk barricaded around Harwal

DANVILLE — City workers barricaded the public sidewalk around the Harwal Hotel building in downtown Wednesday after a resident reported that bricks had fallen from the vacant structure.

Bob Scott, service and operations manager for the city, said the city's inspections department received a complaint from a resident in the area of the Harwal, once a hotel and now a vacant four-story former residential building at 101 W. Harrison St. Scott said the inspector that handles that area of the city checked it out, and a brick or two had come loose and fallen from the building. He said the inspector notified him, and as a precaution, the decision was made to barricade the sidewalk next to the building. Scott said the city's legal department is working on the situation.

Legal proceedings involving the city and the owner of the Harwal, Eric Williams, stretch back several years. Williams could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Williams acquired the building in 2002 and was operating it as a transitional housing site for homeless or paroled men.

In 2006, the city sent him a letter requesting repairs or replacement of numerous windows and brickwork within 30 days and was later cited by the city for not doing the work. Williams estimated the work requested by the city to cost up to $30,000, and by December of 2006, Williams was making improvements to the building as he could afford, including boarding up vacant windows.

In 2007, the city shut down the building after learning people had been living there without power for a few weeks. After that, the city continued to pursue repairs to the building through the legal system, and in 2009, city officials barricaded the sidewalk after plywood fell from one of the vacant windows.

Most recently, Williams was trying to secure a loan to renovate the building as a transitional housing site for veterans, but the building is still vacant with exterior code violations.

Rich Dahlenburg, assistant corporation counsel for the city, said in February of last year, the court ordered Williams to repair or demolish the building and that hasn't happened. Later in 2012, Dahlenburg said, the city asked the court to find Williams in contempt of the order, and that is still pending.

Repairs would entail bringing the exterior of the building up to city code, he said.

Until the legal case is resolved, Dahlenburg said, the city won't touch the property. He said city ordinances allow the city to go onto properties and address code violations if the owner does not. But in this situation, there's already a long legal case between the city and the owner, concerning this building, so the city prefers to continue its legal case.

"If we have to go on the property, I would rather have an order of the court to do it," he said.

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