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Fire-ravaged downtown Galesburg building to be demolished

Nearly three months after a fire at downtown Galesburg building, a decision has been made to tear it down.
Jane Carlson
Tri States Public Radio
Nearly three months after a fire at downtown Galesburg building, a decision has been made to tear it down.

The cause of the fire remains undetermined

Nearly three months after a fire caused significant damage to a downtown building, the property owner and insurance company have decided to tear it down.

Steve Gugliotta, Director of Community Development for the city of Galesburg, said demolition is expected to begin within two weeks.

He said the owner of 149/151 E. Main St. and the owner’s insurance company hired a structural engineer to determine options for the property, before coming to the decision to demolish it.

Galesburg 61401 LLC and the insurance company have now signed a demolition contract with USA Recycling to tear down the building, which has been in a state of partial demolition since the fire.

“The private owner and insurance company have remained in contact with the city throughout the process, to ensure officials that they are continuing to take the necessary steps toward resolution. As of this morning, the demo contractor indicated to the city that they will be scheduling a pre-demo meeting to ensure all parties are on the same page,” Gugliotta said.

The demolition contractor is completing a required 10-day notice to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency for asbestos. Such notices are required for all demolitions to ensure properties have been tested for asbestos prior to demolition.

“In this case, the property was tested, and any identified asbestos will be mitigated and removed prior to demolition,” Gugliotta said. “It is anticipated the contractor will submit a demolition permit application to the city this week.”

Gugliotta said impacts from the fire could have been much worse.

“Thanks to the swift and effective action of the Galesburg Fire Department, no lives were lost,” he said. “In addition, the property owner and insurance company have continued to methodically move towards resolution, while keeping the city apprised of progress and ensuring due diligence is completed throughout the process. “

Cause of fire ‘undetermined’

The Galesburg Fire Department responded to the fire at the building at 10:07 a.m. Feb. 19.

The structure housed two businesses on the first floor and apartments on the second and third floor. Multiple people were displaced by the fire, businesses were required to relocate, and two pets died.

After the fire was extinguished and the site was evaluated, owner 61401 Galesburg LLC and property manager Macomb Rentals applied for an emergency demolition permit to demolish the top portion of the building over safety concerns.

The property has been cordoned off since then, with one lane of traffic closed along Main Street in front of the building. The 100 block of North Prairie Street has also been closed.

Gugliotta said roadways are expected to reopen as soon as demolition is complete.

Fire chief Randy Hovind told TSPR the fire started in a room being used as living room on the third floor, but the cause is still undetermined.

“The rationale behind that classification is that the misuse of smoking materials, unknown failure of electrical conductors or components, or open flame ignition could not be ruled out as the cause of the fire,” Hovind said.

The state fire marshal was not involved with the investigation, which remains open, Hovind said.

Tenants on the second floor had registered complaints over living conditions in the building, including a bed bug infestation, fungus growing up from the floor, and a lack of lighting in hallways.

City inspections revealed plumping and electrical issues in that apartment.

The city said in a release days after the fire that efforts were ongoing with the property manager to remediate those complaints.

Property taxes redeemed

Galesburg 61401 LLC purchased a parcel including 149 and 151 E. Main St. in October 2022 for $199,500.

The purchase by warranty deed was just weeks after the LLC was registered with the state of Illinois.

Minarsi W. Feszchak is listed as the manager for 61401 Galesburg LLC, and the address for the LLC is in Mount Pleasant, S.C.

Following the sale, more than $10,000 in 2022 property taxes payable in 2023 were not paid.

In November 2023, the parcel taxes were sold to Ivy Jack Inc., based in Washington, Ill.

However, records show the 2022 property taxes were redeemed last month so 61401 Galesburg LLC retained ownership.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Jane Carlson is TSPR's regional reporter.