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Lord Stanley's, Common Grounds building condemned

Official: Tenants to find out Monday whether upstairs apartments are inhabitable

DeKALB – Tenants living above the condemned space in the building that houses Lord Stanley’s Bar will find out Monday morning whether they need to move out.

The business spaces at Lord Stanley’s Bar and Annex, 142 E. Lincoln Highway, and Common Grounds, 150 E. Lincoln Highway, were condemned Friday – predominantly because of structural problems, although sanitary problems were found in the bar’s food and beverage storage spaces, City Attorney Dean Frieders said.

Frieders said inspectors determined the structural problems don’t affect the second-floor apartments, so tenants have not been displaced – not yet, at least. He said safety concerns were found upstairs, including missing smoke detectors, electrical problems and a “large number” of propane tanks being stored in the hallway. He said the owner, listed in DeKalb County property records as Mark Thompson of DeKalb, who lists 142 E. Lincoln Highway as his mailing address, was given until Monday to fix the upstairs problems.

“My greatest sensitivity is for the folks living upstairs, and my hope is we can get through the situation with the condemnation downstairs without them being affected,” Mayor Jerry Smith said.

Frieders said a tenant promptly helped remove the propane tanks, and inspectors will return to the property Monday morning to determine whether the upstairs could be condemned, as well. If tenants are no longer allowed to live in the apartments, Smith said, the city will help put them in touch with social service agencies to help them relocate.

Frieders said an inspection that began months ago resumed and wrapped up midday Friday, and structural problems were found in weight-bearing areas throughout the main floor of the building.

He said sanitary problems were found in the basements, and food and storage areas at Lord Stanley’s and the Annex, including “organic growth.” He said he could not elaborate on what that growth constituted.

Red condemnation signs are posted on all three businesses’ doors, as well as the upstairs apartment entrances that flank them.

Frieders said his understanding is the owner of Common Grounds, Jeff Foster, had no idea about the building’s problems, as the structural problems underpinning the main floor, and no sanitary problems were found in the coffee shop.

“I want to be very clear: There are no health or sanitation issues that we observed in Common Grounds,” Frieders said, “and the structural issues were no fault of the Common Grounds tenants.”

Frieders said in addition to structural problems such as sagging, broken and cracked floors, someone had installed wooden support beams “in a fashion that was not professionally done,” and without a building permit.

“When someone tries a remediation plan like that, that hasn’t been reviewed and approved, you can unintentionally cause more issues,” Frieders said.

The inspection, done to check on compliance with fire life safety codes, was done by DeKalb Fire Lt. Bill Lynch, and Frieders said Lynch enlisted the city’s chief building official, Thaddeus Mack, to help make a decision on the condemnation.

While there’s no timeline on how quickly it could happen or how much it would cost, Frieders said the city is fully supportive of efforts to fix the building so the businesses can reopen.

He said the wood floor in Lord Stanley’s basement has deteriorated, and some of it has been removed, revealing the dirt underneath. He said it’s possible the owner will have to pour a new basement floor to meet code.

An optimistic sign on Common Grounds’ window reads “Reopening soon – keep up on Facebook Common Grounds: DeKalb.” In a post on the Facebook page, Foster asked people to pray for the residents upstairs.

The building is just a couple of doors east of developer John Pappas’ $7.5 million Cornerstone Project at the corner of First Street and Lincoln Highway, which has an estimated completion date of Aug. 1. While that project continues, the $6 million Plaza DeKalb development, another four-story Pappas project across the street and a block to the east, is ongoing. Pappas has said remodeling work for the two properties at 223 and 229 E. Lincoln Highway should be complete by June 1.

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