Untouched Burn Site a Community Eyesore for Months

Posted at 6:51 PM, Aug 01, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-01 22:22:07-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The fire at Alpine Avenue NW and Tenth Street may have been extinguished in April, but those who live near it say little else has changed.

It still smells like smoke, and aside from the overgrown weeds in the debris, still looks like a fresh fire scene.

On the afternoon of April 21 smoke from the business fire could be seen from miles away.

Edward Mellema said he had a much different view from his front porch.

“It was smoldering, on fire,” he said.  “We had front row seats.”

A few days later, the fire was still smoldering.  Arson investigators from Grand Rapids fire continued searching for a cause all while the building’s owner, Ewerson Solis, tried to wrap his head around what happened.

“We were so close, two months at least,” the owner said.  “We were so close to opening.”

Fast forward four months, neighbors are shock for a different reason.

“It’s amazing how it’s still the way it is,” said Mellema.

“We were disappointed the day the bulldozers left and we were definitely hoping that it would have demolished right away,” said Megan Deweerd, who lives across the street from the burnt building.

The fact that very little has been cleaned up or secured gives Mellema cause for concern.

“Kids have been sneaking in there.  Something is going to happen.  Something is going to fall on somebody and then what?” he said.

The concern is also shared by Solis, “It’s been four months and we have been back and forth with two different insurance, spoken to a lot of people.  They are just not fixing anything.”

On the fence around the structure is a notice from the city dated June 17, 2013.  It states that the owner needs to repair or demolish the structure or risk fines and punishment from the city.

“They said I need to take it down immediately, otherwise they will take me to court,” said Solis.

Solis said his lawyer was able to buy him a little more time with the city to wait for the insurance money to come through.

We tried multiple times to reach the Grand Rapids Housing Inspection Office for comment but as of August 1, 2013 no one returned our messages.

The owner said he wants to ensure those living near his property that it will stay in this condition forever.

The cause of the fire was ruled “undetermined” by investigators.  The owner said he has received multiple offers for people looking to purchase the property but Solis said he is not ready to give up his dream of turning this into a grocery store just yet.