RACINE — The owners of Racine Merchandise Mart are suing the city and a local contractor for $101,000 in damages that allegedly occurred to their Uptown storefront during the demolition of a blighted building at 1516 Washington Ave.
The lawsuit, filed in Racine County Circuit Court on Oct. 25, comes nearly a year after the building was torn down and about a month after the plaintiff, Racine Properties Group LLC, or RPG, filed a claim against the city seeking the same damages.
The City Council recommended the claim be denied on Sept. 17, which allowed RPG to file the lawsuit.
Mayor John Dickert ordered that the building be taken down last November after staff became concerned that the structure’s crumbling facade might fall off and hurt someone. The project, which was completed in January, was originally slated to cost $26,209, but cost overruns later brought the final price tag for the job to $52,353. The change orders on the demolition contract — one for $3,750 and another for $22,394 — were the source of weeks of debate among aldermen, city staff and feuding contractors over the bidding and oversight of the project.
A month after approving those change orders in April, the City Council ended up approving another change order for $1,650 to fix a gap at 1512 Washington Ave., the location of Racine Merchandise Mart — an antique and interior design shop run by local residents Linea Anthony and her husband, Clifford Goodenough. Anthony is a “registered agent” for RPG, which, according to the complaint, owns the building at 1512 Washington Ave.
One of the issues at the center of the debate about the demolition was whether the main contractor — Azarian Wrecking also known as RAZA of Racine — disregarded demolition specifications issued by the city when it opted to tear down the building with a backhoe.
In its complaint against the city and RAZA, RPG alleges that Azarian failed to follow city guidelines, which stated that the contractor should take “extreme care so that no damaging or weakening of that adjacent buildings” occurred.
According to the complaint, an engineer hired by RPG found that 1512 Washington Ave. sustained roughly $96,000 in damages as a result of the demolition, including a cracked wall, and exposed beams and footings.
Deputy City Attorney Scott Letteney would not speak about case specifics on Thursday, but said his office is working on response to the complaint, which is due sometime in early December.
Attempts to reach Anthony and her attorney Thursday afternoon were unsuccessful.
No hearing date have been set in the case.