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Peru loses two 'rotten teeth'

BY ANTHONY LOMBARDI - alombardi@perutribune.com

Eyesores no more. 

Two hazardous downtown properties that have been a focal point of city officials’ efforts to clean up Peru were demolished on Tuesday.

In other words, 63 and 65 S. Broadway are history.

“It’s great to finally have this behind us,” Peru Mayor Gabe Greer said. “I hate taking down downtown buildings, but these obviously were beyond (repair). With these buildings, it got to the point that they had to come down.” 

Wayde Ames & Son Demolition, the local contractor on the $56,500 project, started early in the morning on the red-brick building.

As a safety measure, the crew used a lull forklift to support the property’s front. Peru Utilities workers guarded a nearby utility pole located on the side. 

The crew worked from back to the front, and Wayde Ames himself was at the helm of an excavator. Workers had to step back when the chimneys were removed, and they sprayed water periodically to keep dust contained. From the back alley, spectators could see a white washing machine still on the second floor.

Greer said the current plan is to replace the pile of debris with a gravel lot that will be turned into a public parking spot toward the alleyway. The mayor also said that ReDiscover Downtown Peru is looking to acquire a grant to help fund a decorative wall and some park benches that would be placed toward the front of the lot. 

Steve Anderson, an executive committee member of ReDiscover Downtown Peru, said the organization is waiting to hear back from the landscape architect before they apply for the grant. No timetable is set for when the city’s new feature could be added, but Greer doesn’t think there should be any hurdles.  

Dillinger’s owner Todd Black, whose the business is next door to 63 and 65 S. Broadway, thinks the public lot will benefit both the community and his restaurant.

“I love that idea,” Black said. “It’ll expose the whole side of my building and that’s good. It’s not like my building is hidden, but it’s really going to expose it now.” 

The city acquired both dilapidated properties for about $8,000 in late March, according to Greer. City officials initially wanted the former owner of 65 S. Broadway to repair the building on his own, but when it became clear that wasn’t going to happen, the city started the long, legal process of acquiring it, said Greer. 

During the effort, the city also pursued the purchase of 63 S. Broadway, which would have been structurally compromised as a standalone building. 

The demo of the two properties adds to the list of hazardous buildings the city has knocked down this year. To date, six others – 530 W. Main St., 321 E. Fifth St., 514 W. Third St., 89 E. Warren St., 321 E. Third St. and 66 Holman St. – have been demolished. 

Another address, 520 E. Fifth St., is scheduled to come down next week, after the project’s start was sightly delayed, according to Peru’s Building Commissioner Jerry Santen. 

Santen told the Peru Tribune in April that he thinks the city’s residents will see the work being done to revitalize Peru’s image, and that will lead to people taking pride in their neighborhoods once again. 

“They can actually see that this administration is not giving them lip service and leaving them hanging,” he said. “We’re being proactive … I think that’s going to translate into investments from private people who live here.” 

Even though 63 and 65 S. Broadway aren’t located in a residential neighborhood, the building does sit downtown on one of the city’s busiest roads. 

“This is like pulling out a rotten tooth,” Greer said. “You got a missing tooth, but it’s a lot better than the rotten tooth that was there.”