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Deal to buy deteriorating downtown church falls through

A purchase agreement between Templo Mahanaim Assemblea de Dios Church and a buyer, who had applied for a permit to take down the 90-year-old building, apparently fell through. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR -- City officials thought the deteriorating Templo Mahanaim Assemblea de Dios Church building at corner of Seventh Street and Litchfield Avenue Southwest would have been demolished by now.

However, a purchase a-greement be-tween the church and the buyer, who had applied for a permit to take down the 90-year-old building, apparently fell through.

And MAAC Inc. of Montevideo, the company that removed asbestos last summer before demolition could proceed, has not been paid.

"It was our understanding that the buyer was going to be Chad Monson (of Willmar) and all indications were that that was the case,'' said Bruce Peterson, director of city planning and development services. "Apparently that deal fell through after the asbestos was removed.''

Monson bought a city demolition permit on Aug. 20, 2010, and had informed the city's inspection staff of his intention to have the building out of there by the end of December. "Obviously, that didn't happen,'' said Peterson.

The Tribune left a message at Monson's office seeking comment for this story, but no call was returned.

Peterson said he talked to MAAC and learned the company has not been paid. The company has placed a lien against the property for the bill of about $90,000.

Peterson said the company in Oregon that holds the mortgage for the church property has agreed to subordinate its mortgage to the lien, which means that if someone would buy the property the lien would be paid ahead of the mortgage.

Peterson said the church is still the owner of the building, and he said some people are trying to put together another deal. If another deal isn't put together, the council could proceed with demolition.

The congregation said it could not afford to make repairs and had offered to make a gift of the property to the city. The council has not accepted the offer.

The building had been sitting empty for a couple of years and was condemned as unsafe by the City Council. The council in late 2009 ordered the owners to either make repairs or have the building torn down.

Peterson learned about the status of the building a couple of weeks ago.

"Whether or not we know exactly what the situation is, the council's going to have to move forward with their previous action to pursue demolition and if the owners are not going to do it, then I believe the city should step in and do it,'' he said.

The building has not been heated for a couple of years, some windows are open and the interior is trashed. It's still an eyesore and the structure of the property is getting worse every day, he said.

The church was built in 1921 and was used as a church until 1979. It served as a law office from 1980 to 1999. In 2001, it was bought by Templo Mahanaim Assemblea de Dios and served as a church for a number of years until the congregation could no longer afford to make repairs.

Peterson reported the church's status to the City Council's Community Development Committee Thursday evening.

In other business, Peterson reported on the city's appeal of a state agency's determination that the old airport terminal and site are eligible for placement on the National Register of Historic Places.

The city has filed its appeals with the Federal Aviation Administration, which is responsible for packaging the city's appeal documents and submitting those to the keeper of the National Register. The keeper will decide the terminal's eligibility.

Peterson said the FAA told the city that the agency plans to have everything submitted around Jan. 1. Peterson said the city requested a digital copy of everything that was submitted, but has not received it yet. He said the city has solicited some assistance from the office of 7th District Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn.

"They will be advocating on the city's behalf as well,'' Peterson said.

The city's disagreement with the State Historic Preservation Office's determination that the old terminal is eligible for historic designation is delaying the FAA's release of the old airport land to the city for industrial development purposes.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150