Owners still publicly uncommitted on rebuilding
By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
MELVINDALE – Despite the visible progress finally underway at the fire-damaged Oakwood Food Center demolition site, its owners have yet to announce publicly whether they will rebuild the city’s only grocery store.
Mayor Stacy Bazman said that when she spoke to one of the owners several months ago, he indicated a desired to rebuild, but she said she has received no updates since then.
Building Official Brad Burns said the last time he spoke to the owners of Melvindale Investments LLC, they were still considering their options.
“They haven’t given us a confirmation yes or no,” Burns said. “When I talked to them quite a way back, they were still determining what their options were, and haven’t completely decided what they wanted to do.”
Burns said that while city officials are holding some of the insurance settlement money in escrow until the building is completely demolished, he said he does not know how much money will remain for rebuilding once the demolition of the current structure is complete.
Before the building burned, Burns said the owners had submitted plans for an area to prepare food, like rotisserie chicken, similar to a deli.
“They had submitted plans a few months before (the fire) to add that inside the store,” Burns said. “So, to say that they were not going to put investment into it may not be accurate. So, they were looking at putting some funds into the store.”
During his most recent communication with the owners, Burns said they were still undecided.
“The last time I talked to them they said they are not walking away from it, but they are not committed to doing it,” Burns said. “They are still debating their options.”
Burns said the city reached out to Aldi, and the city is now on its “future radar,” with Melvindale under consideration for a store. He said Aldi was unaware of the Oakwood Food Center fire.
“We are in their future forecast,” Burns said.
He said the Oakwood Food Center site meets all the zoning requirements for a retail food center, so the city wouldn’t have any objection to the grocery store being rebuilt or to selling the property to a grocery chain that would like to come into the city.
At the teardown site, Burns said they are waiting to remove the rooftop climate control unit, which has refrigerant in it, and once it is gone, the rest of the structure can be razed.
“We are just glad to see the building being taken down,” Burns said. “I think the citizens are just happy that it is going down.”
Burns said whether the current owners rebuild the store or a new grocer comes in, the city will ensure it is done right.
“It will be a brand new store and it will look nice for the city,” he said.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected].)