Bank sues to stop gas station demo
A bank is suing Milwaukee to save a partially constructed convenience store and gas station from demolition.
North Milwaukee State Bank filed a temporary restraining order July 30 to prevent the Department of Neighborhood Services from razing the bank-owned building at 307 E. Center St.
A conference has been set for Sept. 7 in Milwaukee County Circuit Court to determine if the DNS can raze the structure.
According to DNS records, the unfinished project has received numerous violations from city inspectors since construction began in 2007. A DNS inspector in January cited the building for 12 violations and issued a raze order.
Violations included failure to maintain the building in a waterproof condition; numerous unsupported walls; missing doors, windows, floors and ceilings; an incomplete frame and roof; and a lack of mechanical system and utilities, as well as a missing fire prevention system, according to DNS records.
But the DNS is refusing to let the bank try to fix the violations, said Coral Pleas, an attorney with Glendale-based Pleas Williams LLC who is representing the bank in the lawsuit.
“This case is just a nightmare,” she said. “I don’t know why the city is being as hard as they are with this.
“I’m doing handstands trying to save this building.”
DNS spokesman Todd Weiler declined to comment and referred questions regarding the case to Assistant City Attorney Jay Unora. Unora did not respond to requests for comment before deadline Friday afternoon.
The bank bought the property March 26 through a Milwaukee County sheriff’s sale for $150,000, according to the lawsuit, after the original property owner, Syed Turab, owner of Milwaukee-based JARI Inc., died Feb. 17.
In 2007, Turab received a $240,000 loan from the bank and the Milwaukee Economic Development Corp. for the project, Pleas said. Turab’s project stalled in 2008 because of financial problems, and the bank began to foreclose on the property June 8, 2011.
After the sheriff’s sale, North Milwaukee State Bank lined up a buyer for the property. Mandeep Dhawan, who owns seven gas stations throughout Milwaukee, was willing to buy the property for $225,000 and bring the partially constructed project up to code, Pleas said. In the past, Dhawan has successfully finished three other gas stations that have been incomplete and had code violations, she said.
However, the bank is worried Dhawan won’t buy the property if the building is razed, Pleas said, and the last thing North Milwaukee wants is to find a buyer for an empty lot.
Dhawan did not respond to requests for comment before deadline Friday afternoon.
Pleas said she has repeatedly tried to discuss saving the building with city officials.
“I’ve spoken with both the city attorneys and DNS and tried to persuade them to stop the demolition,” she said. “I’m not only representing the bank, but I’ve become a Realtor, politician and salesman trying to keep it from being knocked down.”
There isn’t much hope left for the building, Pleas said.
“Our last hope and chance is this injunction,” she said. “After that, our best bet is to chain ourselves to the building to stop them from razing it.”