Vandalized with a heart, the University Heights house debacle continues on National Avenue. (Photo by Shannon Cay Bowers)

Editor’s note: The original version of this story listed an incorrect address for one of the demolition permits.

The developer who is planning to turn the residential northwest corner of National Avenue and Sunshine Street into restaurants and condos — despite strong objections from residents in the neighborhood — took another step toward that goal last week. 

According to online records with the city, BK&M LLC (Be Kind and Merciful LLC) applied for permits to demolish the homes at 1755 S. National Ave., 1745 S. National Ave., 1739 S. National Ave. and the one around the corner at 1119 E. Sunshine St.

Many residents within the University Heights Neighborhood Association are very much opposed to the developer’s plans, saying they believe retail development will increase traffic into their neighborhood and cause their property values to go down. 

The white colonial-style house that sits on the corner at 1755 S. National was boarded up last Wednesday night while residents were attending a meeting to discuss ways to save it. 

Developer Ralph Duda III, with BK&M, said last week he realized boarding the home up would create a stir, but called the 92-year-old house a “hazard.”

“There was issue after issue,” Duda said. “Their utility bill was close to $800 a month. The insulation is terrible. The windows are bad. There’s frequent leaks. Drains don’t drain. The HVAC air-conditioning unit blew out (and) a lot of wood rot around the house.”

Drag the slider left and right to see a before and after. TIP: If the slider isn’t working on your mobile phone, try viewing the story in a regular browser instead of the Facebook viewer. (Photos by Shannon Cay Bowers)

Someone paints large heart on empty house

Duda said he couldn’t comment about when any of the homes might be demolished or about the timeline for the project. At this time, the white house is the only one that doesn’t have tenants.

A public hearing before the Planning and Zoning Commission to discuss the developer’s request to have the property rezoned will be at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 6.

Sometime Sunday night, someone painted a large red heart on the door of the boarded-up home with the words, “Love your neighbor.”

A house in the center of a community debate has been tagged with a bible quote. (Photo by Shanon Cay Bowers)

Duda said he suspects it was painted by a resident from the neighborhood. 

“It’s a positive message,” Duda said, “so I’m going to leave it alone.”

Duda said someone broke into the white house at 1755 S. National Saturday night. Duda said they used a drill to remove screws from the boards covering a back door and then kicked open the door.

Other than the door, nothing was damaged, Duda said. 

The heart was painted sometime Sunday night or in the early hours Monday morning. 

“It is trespassing,” Duda said, referring to both the break in and the painted heart. “You can’t trespass on my personal property. It’s against the law. I don’t appreciate it.

Developer plans to leave graffiti alone

“But again, it’s a positive message,” he said of the message painted on the heart. “I think it will bring joy to the 70,000 people who drive by it every day.”

According to developers, this house at 1739 S. National is used as an Airbnb. (Photo by Shannon Cay Bowers)

The white house is empty and beyond repair, Duda said. 

Tenants are currently living in the other houses.

“The white house is too far gone,” he said. “The others, there could be an option to relocate them or demo — I’m not sure.”

At that neighborhood meeting last week, some wondered what process the developer would need to go through before tearing down the homes.

According to information on the city’s website, there are several steps that must be taken by both the developer and city staff before wrecking permits can be issued. 

Responsibility of the developer

In addition to completing the application for the wrecking permit, the developer must notify City Utilities to request retirement of the water, gas and electric services. 

They must also hire a licensed plumber to cap the sewer at the property line or pump and fill the septic tank. 

They must also hire a certified contractor to perform asbestos inspection. That contractor will then submit a report to the Department of Environmental Services. 

State and federal regulations require a demolition project to have an asbestos inspection of the building before the start of work. It’s the property owner’s responsibility to maintain compliance with all applicable asbestos laws and regulations pertaining to the demolition.

Approximately 70,000 vehicles a day pass through the intersection of National and Sunshine. (Photo by Shannon Cay Bowers)

The information on the city’s website notes that disposal of asbestos contaminated debris is not allowed into the city’s landfill. 

The developer also has to obtain a driveway permit and sidewalk permit to restore the sidewalk, curbs, gutter and parkway to line and grade of the adjoining sidewalk, curb, gutter and parkway if applicable. 

Responsibility of the city

According to the information on the city’s website, the city will check each structure for historical significance before issuing a wrecking permit. 

The city must also verify whether or not asbestos is present. Once the Department of Environmental Services approved the asbestos report, it will forward its approval to the Department of Building Development Services. 

City Utilities must notify the Department of Building Services when all the utilities have been retired. 

A plumbing inspector from the Department of Building Development Services must inspect and approve the sewer cap or septic system abandonment prior to the wrecking permit being issued. The plumbing contractor must request an inspection once work is completed. 

Jackie Rehwald

Jackie Rehwald is a reporter at the Springfield Daily Citizen. She covers housing, homelessness, domestic violence and early childhood, among other public affairs issues. Her office line is 417-837-3659. More by Jackie Rehwald