HAMMOND | A city board on Thursday held off on ordering the demolition of a grocery store abandoned last year and believed to be infested with bugs after an attorney representing the bank-owned property said a cleanup is under way.
The tenant abandoned the store, formerly known as Hammond Fresh Market at Hohman Avenue and Gostlin Street, in July. Items left on the shelves included everything from food to pop, which exploded in the summer heat onto the floor leaving a black, sticky substance.
A contractor has been hired to clean up the building, which is now in the foreclosure process and scheduled to be sold at a Lake County sheriff’s sale in June, according to Greg Bouwer, who represented lender Archer Bank at Thursday’s hearing before the Hammond Board of Public Works and Safety.
In dispute at the hearing was whether an actual insect and rodent problem existed at the former grocery store. The receiver of the property, Peter Hazifotis of Allied Realty, said he’s been in the building 15 to 20 times since January and hasn’t seen insects or mice. Court records show Hazifotis was appointed receiver of the property in November.
City Controller Bobby Lendi, who sits on the board, called on the building’s caretakers to hire an exterminator, a request Bouwer said the receiver would commit to doing.
“It would be naive to come to the board and say there’s been food substances left in the store unattended on the floor all summer long,” Lendi said. “And there’s not been one rodent or one insect.”
Bouwer had asked the board to dismiss the violation calling for an emergency order to demolish the building, contending the bank and the building’s receiver had been proactive in addressing issues at the site. Instead, the board pushed back the matter until April 25 when it will evaluate whether problems at the building were corrected.
Hazifotis said he visited the store Wednesday and most of the food already had been moved out by the contractor. Plans are to donate canned goods from the store to a local food pantry.
The general manager of Porter’s Apparel, which is adjacent to the grocery store, called being next door to the abandoned property a “constant battle.”
Nick Porter told the board this past summer the business had to increase its extermination efforts to keep up with the flies and other insects caused by the abandoned building. As the weather breaks, Porter said he is worried the building will “explode with issues.”
Porter also questioned donating canned goods from the store because as the items were cleaned out, he noticed many were expired.
“Anybody who walked past the building before the windows were boarded up, there was glass windows, and there were inches of insects on the bottom of the windows,” Porter said.