City may stabilize Marquette, bill owner

Friday, November 2, 2001

Another missed deadline by the Marquette Hotel owner left city officials ready to make the 73-year-old building safe and then bill the owner for any work done.

"We're going to figure out what it takes to secure the building so that it does not pose any danger to people who come close to it," said Mayor Al Spradling III. "We have the ability to do that and then tax bill the property."

The Cape Girardeau City Council plans to discuss the matter at Monday night's meeting. The owner -- Thad Bullock's widow, Ruby -- is represented by her daughter, Carol Bullock, who lives in Maryland. An extension of time to come up with a plan for the building recently expired.

The city's housing assistance coordinator, Stephen Williams, said the process to stabilize the building would include boarding up windows and fixing the roof, and doing whatever work it takes to make it safe. Williams said no cost estimate has been calculated.

Carol Bullock said a request was denied earlier this year to get lights and water restored to the building at Broadway and Fountain streets so she could assess damage.

"How can I do an assessment without lights or water?" she said. "You can't clean stuff up in a dark room."

Spradling said Bullock was told the city needed a plan even for any temporary work she might do.

"She has never provided a plan, and we are not going to willy-nilly hook up electricity and water in what could be a dangerous situation," Spradling said.

The building, constructed in 1928 and condemned in summer 2000, has a tattered awning and numerous broken windows. Bricks occasionally fall from near the top of the building, Spradling said.

Carol Bullock said the building is not a danger to residents.

"Nobody's living in it, and it's a sound structure," she said. "It's not falling down soon. It's held up since 1927. There are buildings in Cape Girardeau that need to be torn down, but the Marquette is not one of them."

Spradling said he doesn't want the building torn down but wonders if demolition wouldn't be best if the hotel is left to further deteriorate.

"It's a neat hotel," he said. "But there comes a point in time when it's the responsibility of the city to keep it from deteriorating and becoming an eyesore."

Demolition costs are estimated at $1 million.

Spradling said it isn't in the city's interest to have a building in such condition.

"People look at this every day," he said. "It's a part of our city that's not attractive. How do you attract people with a piece of junk like that in the state that it is in? If they would maintain it, or have some plan for it, I'm sure I'd feel differently."

Bullock said she wants to sell the property and has interested buyers. She is asking $700,000.

"She can do whatever she wants to with it," Spradling said. "But if we have to go forward, the property owner will be tax billed. We don't want to stop her from selling. We just don't want this property to languish."

The building was included in April on the state's "10 most endangered list" for 2001 by a preservationist group.

335-6611, extension 137

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