After years of disputes over the fate of Hillsboro’s Parker House — one of three buildings on West Main Street owned by Jack Hope recently deemed uninhabitable — the four-story structure that many have called an eyesore will soon be donated to the city for demolition, the mayor said.
Meanwhile, the fate of a hometown diner in the adjacent building is uncertain as the clock ticks on a 45-day window for Hope to dispute the city’s ruling and bring the buildings into compliance with code.
For now, the proprietors want people to know that the restaurant remains open for business — despite orange signs on nearby windows saying the area is too dangerous to even stand nearby.
Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings, whose administration days ago deemed the three buildings uninhabitable, said a meeting Wednesday morning with members of Hope’s family concluded with an agreement for Hope to donate the Parker House to the city, and demolition will follow in an undetermined time frame.
Hastings said he wants demolition to proceed “sooner rather than later,” after the deal is inked, but gave no definite time frame.
“Sooner means pretty quickly,” he said.
According to Hastings, Hope himself was not at the meeting, but “the agreement was taken back to him and he will ultimately sign off on this.”
Hope could not be reached for comment Thursday.
As for the other structures, Hastings said there will be “more coming out on the other two buildings in the near future.”
“The buildings have serious issues and we’ll just have to see how that plays out,” he said.
Hillsboro Code Enforcement Officer Anton “Tony” Weissman said Thursday that Hope has 14 days from Tuesday, April 16 to challenge the city’s ruling on the properties.
If nothing is filed during that window, another 30-day period will begin, during which court processes begin arranging for complete vacation of the buildings at the conclusion.
Weissman said the vacation will be forced if necessary.
“Unfortunately, it could be that level,” he said. “Basically, most of this finding will be determinate on what happens within the 14 days.”
If Hope does not begin a possibly lengthy appeals process within the 45 days, the buildings will be officially condemned and the city will file for an injunction to tear them down, Weissman said.
Weissman said all three buildings, particularly the Parker House, are structurally unstable, adding, “It’s not if they fall, it’s when they’re going to fall.”
Still, he said he is “not going to stop anybody from going in (to Momma’s). I placed the placards on the building to notify people there are problems… I’ve identified that there is an issue there on the sidewalks and in the roadways and in the buildings.”
But Bobbie and Jeretta Barr, a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law who own Momma’s West Main Cafe with their husbands, dispute the city’s findings, at least on the building their restaurant calls home.
The two women told The Times-Gazette that they have an engineer’s report saying at least their building is structurally sound.
According to Jeretta Barr, she and the other owners were awarded a revolving loan from the city at the end of March worth $60,000 to buy the building from Hope. They currently rent their space.
But after city officials inspected the Hope buildings at the beginning of April, the city’s revolving loan committee rescinded the award, saying in a letter that the buildings were not structurally sound, according to Jeretta Barr.
Jeretta Barr said the letter told Momma’s owners that the city would re-award the funds if they found another building to buy.
On April 13, the Momma’s owners had a certified engineer conduct an inspection of the building, and that report deemed the structure sound, according to Jeretta Barr.
Two days later, Weissman placed placards in the windows of all three buildings deeming them uninhabitable.
In a five-page report dated April 12 provided to The Times-Gazette by Hastings, Weissman describes the three buildings as “severely deteriorated” and outlines structural integrity issues.
According to the report, large portions of the building housing 125, 127 and 129 W. Main St. — a local AAA office is the only active inhabitant — are in danger of falling onto the sidewalk.
The Momma’s building shows “many structural failure locations,” and is in danger of “near complete, instant collapse” that would be “unsurvivable to anyone on the first floor,” with “additional casualties… on the sidewalk and lanes of traffic,” according to the report.
The report describes the Parker House as an “imminent danger to the public,” due to falling debris.
“Internally, floor after floor, ceiling after ceiling are collapsing on top of each other,” the report said.
Weissman’s report also references a 2015 report on the three buildings conducted by SEA, an engineering firm, that says portions of the Momma’s building are in danger of collapse, although Jeretta Barr said with the collapse of a wall in 2017, subsequent demolition of part of the structure, and a new roof installation, those issues were resolved.
Still, the 2015 report says continued deterioration of the floor and roof structures in both the Parker House and Momma’s building “leave the exterior walls unsupported and in danger of collapse.”
Conflicting reports aside, Jeretta Barr told The Times-Gazette that the Momma’s owners’ main concern now is keeping the restaurant open.
Bobbie Barr said many people have called or sent messages wondering if it is safe to enter the building, with others wondering if it was even legal to do so.
“So many people have come here in a panic wondering what’s going on,” Bobbie Barr said.
Jeretta Barr said city officials assured them at a recent meeting that they can remain open for the time being and that it’s legal to enter, and Safety and Service Director Mel McKenzie confirmed that information.
“It’s not against the law to come in our building,” Jeretta Barr said.
Bobbie Barr said the restaurant’s bottom line is this: “We want to stay right here and continue to do what we have to do.”
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570.