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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Durham officials: Greenfire Development must repair Liberty Warehouse by October

Posted by on Wed, Feb 15, 2012 at 3:02 PM

This photo, included in a city report released Wednesday, shows the roof of Durhams Liberty Warehouse. A portion of the roof collapsed in a rainstorm last May, and has not been repaired.
  • City of Durham
  • This photo, included in a city report released Wednesday, shows the roof of Durham's Liberty Warehouse. A portion of the roof collapsed in a rainstorm last May, and has not been repaired.

Greenfire Development, owner of the Liberty Warehouse near Durham Central Park, must fix the decaying structure by October, according to a ruling (PDF) Wednesday from Durham's planning director, Steve Medlin. According to city ordinances, damage caused by neglect has essentially demolished the historic landmark, Medlin ruled. The former tobacco auction warehouse actually comprises two separate buildings at 611 and 613 Rigsbee Ave. It's the portion at 611 that has been neglected, Medlin found.

The company must develop a rehabilitation plan with city planners within 30 days and repair a slew of problems, including peeling paint, rotting beams and a hole where the roof collapsed last May during a heavy rainstorm. If the company wants to challenge the findings or argue that it is suffering from economic hardship and can't afford the repairs, representatives need to notify the city within 30 days, according to a letter from Medlin to Greenfire Managing Partner Paul Smith.

If the company fails to act, the city could resort to civil action, including levying fines of $500 per day until the building is repaired.

Greenfire is reviewing the city's findings and will meet with officials soon to discuss them, Smith wrote to the Indy in an email Wednesday.

The former tobacco warehouse, located on the east edge of downtown, used to house artists, including space for metal workers who are part of the Liberty Arts foundry. It also used to host nonprofit organizations such as The Scrap Exchange. Tenants in the building were forced to relocate once the roof over 611 Rigsbee Ave. collapsed. The hole in the roof and water that had been pooling on top of it flooded the warehouse, leaving water damage, wood rot and now, mold, in its wake.

The portion at 613 Rigsbee Ave. has been repaired, and Greenfire is seeking a new tenant for the space, Smith said in his email.

Medlin's findings were based on evidence gathered in part through a public meeting earlier this month.

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