by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor
In April of 2017, the Durand City Council followed the recommendation of their new city manager, Colleen O’Toole, and passed a Blighted Areas Ordinance for the purpose of seeking state resources for redevelopment of blighted properties. The following month, the council designated its first blighted property, the old Simplicity building at 209 S. Oak Street.
Now, two years later, the city will host an open house at the site to discuss redevelopment strategies. During the workshop, planners and environmental experts will discuss what types of redevelopment are feasible for the site and gather input from residents about the type of reuse they would like to see. The results of the city’s recent survey on this subject will also be shared, along with some possible design concepts.
The abandoned Simplicity factory at 209 S. Oak St. sits on 2.25 acres of commercially-zoned land that is located west of the Depot, bordering McBride Street to the north and railroad tracks to the south and east.
The city’s Code of Ordinances defines blight as “Public improvements are in a general state of deterioration in the designated area, or a substantial number of buildings in the designated area are deteriorated or deteriorating, and at least 25 percent of the properties in the area have one or more of the following characteristics: Physical deterioration of buildings or improvements, abandonment of properties, chronic high turnover or vacancy rates in commercial/industrial buildings, significant decline in property values or abnormally low property values in relation to other areas in the city, or known or suspected environmental contamination.”
It was noted during the council’s May 1, 2017 meeting that the exterior shell of the northern half of the building, which is composed of brick, could possibly be salvaged and repaired, but the effects of a fire in 2014 and the building’s prolonged abandonment could lead to much of the building being demolished.