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Our View: Renovate or remove Otto’s building

The deteriorating condition of the building that once housed Otto’s and Ducky’s Formal Wear in downtown DeKalb was ignored for years.

But after a pipe in the ceiling burst during frigid January weather, it couldn’t be ignored any longer. It was declared uninhabitable by the city, Ducky’s has found a new home at 250 E. Lincoln Highway, and Otto’s owner, who also owns the building, has given up his liquor license.

Meanwhile, DeKalb now has a new eyesore, a vacant building with papered-over windows greeting visitors to downtown DeKalb.

A city inspection of the building after it was declared uninhabitable found the building had deteriorated after years of neglect. There were also video gambling machines in the building, even though Otto’s did not have a license from the city.

Otto’s owner Patrick Looney has not sounded particularly interested in reopening the business.

“They’ll have another boarded up building in downtown,” Looney told reporter Katie Dahlstrom earlier this month. “If they want it, they can have it.”

Perhaps it was this attitude that led city officials to look the other way at the condition of Otto’s, a building that was notorious for years for being run down.

When city inspectors came to check it out after the pipe burst, they found holes in the floor and ceiling, exposed wiring, electrical faults, and out-of-order bathrooms.

“The premises utilized by the Licensee are in dangerous, hazardous and unsafe conditions, having suffered extensive water damage and damage due to deterioration and neglect over an extended period of time,” a hearing notice from the city states.

City officials have told Looney that if he plans to reopen Otto’s, he must have architectural plans created for the entire building, which would be subject to City Council approval before he can proceed.

Looney has said it’s a 50/50 proposition whether Otto’s will reopen or not. If he wants to dedicate the expense and effort to resurrect what was a favorite live music venue, we wish him good luck.

There’s been a lot of talk this week about changing the image of DeKalb, making it more attractive – well, here’s one place to start. If Looney decides he doesn’t want to reopen on the site, the site should be marketed aggressively.

The building should be either renovated and restored, or removed and rebuilt as soon as possible.

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