Trespassers take toll on vacant hilltop commercial site property owners put on notice
Code Enforcement gives property owners 15 days to board up building

      

Prominent in a view west from the Bijou Street bridge over I-25 is the vacant, tatterered commercial building on the Bijou Hill. "Fish Market" was the name of a past restaurant. The site has been approved for a redevelopment to turn it into a wedding events center, but the property owner's plans are on hold because of the economy.
Westside Pioneer photo
Constant trespassing on a long-vacant commercial hilltop site - punctuated this week by knocked-over gates on a perimeter fence and an open main door to the 8,500-square-foot building - led City Code Enforcement this week to promise a tougher stand with the property owner.
       The 2 ¾-acre location at 775 W. Bijou St., sporting broad views of the Westside and downtown, has housed different restaurants since 1980, but has been unused for at least seven years. Drinking parties, transients and trash-dumping have been reported at different times. A sleeping bag was found inside the building this week. In addition to the door problem, some windows are broken and/or just partially boarded over. “The place is a disaster,” summarized Ken Lewis, head of Code Enforcement.
       Tom Wasinger, a Code Enforcement officer, said May 5 that action to board up windows and doors will need to occur within at least 15 days or the city will hire a contractor to do the job and charge the owner for the expense.
       But such extreme steps won't be necessary, based on an interview with Eric Allen, vice president of operations and managing partner of the Pinery at Black Forest. “We're going to get right on it,” he said. “We've got to get it so there's no crime up there. We've got to clean that up.”
       As approved by City Land Use in 2008, the site was to have been called the Pinery at the Hilltop, providing a downtown/Near Westside location mirroring the current Pinery's upscale “one-stop” wedding/reception offerings in Black Forest. However, “the economy collapsed,” Allen said, crippling the Pinery ownership's ability to find investors willing to forward the $7 million needed to redevelop the property. The anticipated work would involve gutting the interior and adding space (including a deck, offices, chapel and limo entryway) to bring the total structural area to just over 15,000 square feet.
       The Yellen family, which owns both properties through limited liability corporations, remains interested in the plan. “We're talking to new investors,” Allen said.
       In addition to boarding up the building, Allen said the ownership may also set the fence in concrete so it won't present such an easy mark for trespasssers. “This is the fourth time the gate has been knocked down,” he said.
       The fence blocks the front of the building, but can't prevent entry to the parking lot itself because of easement rights for certain properties in the surrounding residential neighborhood, Allen pointed out.
       Wasinger said that a Code Enforcement officer has talked to Pinery representatives. “She impressed upon them the importanceof getting it boarded up,” he said. “She'll check back in a week.”

The broken gate and open main door to a long-vacant restaurant building could be seen this week from its parking lot at 775 W. Bijou St. This is the hilltop (west) side of the building. The "Fish Market" sign (as shown on Page 1) can be seen from the opposite side. The owners have pledged prompt repairs.
Westside Pioneer photo

       A perimeter fence is not required by law, but a more permanent barrier in front of the building “would be a great idea,” he said. “It would behoove them to put something more secure in there.”
       Wasinger also said he will ask City Police to have an officer swing by the property occasionally to look for criminal activity.

Westside Pioneer article