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City addresses mall concerns

WORTHINGTON — The city of Worthington has sent another certified letter to the owner of the Northland Mall outlining a multitude of unsafe conditions throughout the mall facility — not just the former KMart building.

“It’s disappointing they haven’t put the necessary funds for maintenance and upgrade of the facility and that it’s come to that point,” City Administrator Craig Clark said. “Are we happy that it’s gotten to that point? No. But we need to do what’s necessary to make sure it’s living up to providing a safe space for the public.”

A plan of action is required to community development staff within 30 days of the receipt of the letter, which was dated March 10.

“Failure to comply with this order will result with the matter being forwarded to the City Attorney and the city council for action as authorized under Minnesota State Statute Section 463,” the letter read. That statute outlines hazardous or substandard buildings.

“We really can’t presume anything,” Clark said. “Our interest is to continue to be responsive to the public, and the protection of the public, as they are frequenting the mall and assure abatement is addressed in one form or fashion.”

If the owner doesn’t respond, the council could take more action.

“The council has to declare it a public nuisance, and then we’d be going down the same course as the K-Mart facility,” Clark said.

Among those items mentioned, the building has suffered from a lack of maintenance resulting in roofing membrane failures and water intrusion.

Roof coverings are saturated with water. The suspended ceiling systems are compromised, and it is unknown how much structural damage has occurred from water intrusion. The HVAC systems are also non-functional.

According to the letter, the lack of ventilation, high levels of humidity and bulk water entering the building may be creating an unhealthy environment.

“This list is not intended nor shall it be considered all inclusive of unsafe conditions in the building; additional study may reveal additional problems,” the letter said. “You are hereby ordered to abate by repair, rehabilitation, demolition or removal, the unsafe conditions found in the fore mentioned building.”

This is not the first go-round with the owner, listed as Mike Kohen of Northland Mall Realty Management LLC.

The former K-Mart building, which is connected to the mall, has already been declared a hazardous building by the city council. City officials were allowed access to that part of the mall because of police proceedings.

This time, the circumstances were different.

“(It was) concerns from those who have visited the facilities and brought them to the attention of the city, as well as our interest in making sure that the rest of the facility doesn’t experience some of the same problems we’ve seen in the K-Mart facility,” Clark said. “That we went into under different reasons, but the mall is a public space, so it’s a little bit different basis there. But the same interest to make sure it’s safe for shoppers.”

During a January council meeting, the city approved a $19,722 contract with Wenzel Engineering to assess the former K-Mart building. The company will provide cost assessment and recommendations on the decision to repair or demolish the structure.

Community Content Coordinator Aaron Hagen may be reached at 376-7323.