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Foundation cracks worry businesses


May 18, 2011 - Downtown Lake Orion's streets are now throughly demolished, ready to begin the rebuilding process.

Yet it appears the roads aren't the only structures being sundered.

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Delmar ďJ.R.Ē Jarvis, who works maintainance for Ron Sweetís buildings, holds one of some 15 fallen bricks up to the brick which lies below the sidewalk outside. During the construction efforts of downtown Lake Orionís streetscape, these bricks have been falling out into the basement of the apartment building at N. Broadway and E. Front Streets. Photo by Gabriel Ouzounian (click for larger version)
Ron Sweet, owner of buildings at 20 E. Front Street and 51-59 S. Broadway said the heavy equipment being used to tear up the roads and sidewalks has damaged the structural integrity of one of his properties. Besides knocking bricks down from the upper corner of his basement, the vibrations have cause a load-bearing beam to shift.

"(My maintenance man) noticed the damage May 11, and we took immediate action to contain the damage," said Sweet. "The way these historic buildings were built, the front of the building rests on the sidewalk.

"With all the shaking, vibrating - which also knocks stuff off my walls - and them tearing out the sidewalk, its affecting the buildings integrity."

Sweet added he was relieved he only signed a limited easement agreement, which prevented demolition effort from coming within two feet of his building.

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"Thank God they weren't next to the structure because I would be digging my building out from below street level," he said. "They're nice people at the government and the DDA, but when I try to get more information they're uncooperative.

"I'm guessing the damage to be around $1,000 to repair, but I'm not asking for money, I just cannot afford to wait any longer. I need help, and I need it now."

Sweet is not the only property owner experiencing these type of problems. A sizable hole can be seen from the street in front of Elvira's High Fashion at 17 S. Broadway, and Char Westman, owner of Tsori Gifts, said she's had three holes form since the beginning of Streetscape.

"They took care of one, so I'm hoping they'll take care of the other two, but it's been almost two weeks and I'm shocked they haven't fixed it yet," said Westman, who despite the damage is still optimistic about Streetscape efforts. "This is a 100 year old building, and when you tear out that much sidewalk these kind of incidents and drama are going to happen.

It's frustrating, but there are people that know about it and the landlord has been notified. (DDA Director Suzanne Perreault) has been very communicative, let the contractors know, and right now I still see this benefiting the downtown.

Westman cited areas such as Metamora and Rochester which she said have seen thriving business because of downtown beautification efforts. She added, however, if the holes were not fixed she would worry about wildlife and water getting in.

"If the holes are not repaired soon, I'm going to start using my mean and nasty card," she said.

While Westmen remains cautiously optimistic about the situation, Lloyd Coe, owner of Ed's Gifts on the corner of Broadway and Flint Streets, has a less positive outlook on the current state of downtown. He too has had recent damage occur to his building, and when looking at the area of the damage from the basement level, daylight can be seen clearly.

"It just seems like the village has lost control; there doesn't seem to be any plan, and now everything is all torn up and I have people asking about it," said Coe. "They got us all to sign off on these easement agreements, but if I knew what I know now I would have never let them so close the building, because I have no idea what this is doing to the walls here.

"I've had builders see what's going on down here and they all seem concerned about the size of machinery as well. Now we have homework to do that we should have done in the beginning, because I don't want them just throwing cement in there until I know more. Maybe it's not a big deal, but I want to be sure."

Coe added while he is upset about the current state of the downtown, he realizes why the Streetscape was being done and looks forward to the project's completion.

Perreault and Zelenak have heard these concerns, and are currently in the process of addressing them. Zelenak said the Lake Orion Village government will always try to be as "much as an advocate as possible to the businesses, but there's a process to follow, and we have to follow it."

"I don't know what their buildings looked like outside or what happened before or after the construction started," said Zelenak. "We have to follow a process for these claims, and we're turning it over to the engineers from Wade Trim, but I want try to help in any way that I can."

Perreault was similarly concerned, and wanted to reassure business owners in the downtown that if the damage was caused by the construction efforts, they would be reimbursed.

"Our intention is in no way to damage buildings and just leave it, and we want to make sure our property owners are satisfied as best as we can," said Perreault. "We've filled out the claim forms and those affected will be investigated. If it's found that the damage was caused by the construction, then the contractor will be held accountable to reimburse or repair the damage done.

"I talk to the businesses on a regular basis and almost every person has some kind of concern. Some are simple and I handle them on my own, but some require a bit more depth. We're about halfway through this project - at day 45 - and a lot of the demo has been done so it's just a matter of putting things back in place now."

Perreault added she is currently talking to the engineers on the project, and that she was not comfortable speaking at any more length before gaining a better understanding of the subject.

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