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September 20, 2010 09:18 PM

Work Begins To Demolish Oaks Hotel


Work to tear down the old Oaks Hotel in Sioux Falls has started, nearly three months after the mayor held a press conference announcing the demolition.
City officials said Monday that the owner of the building has a crew inside the hotel to remove asbestos so it can be torn down.

The demolition was supposed to start in the middle of July, but it never happened. The city says that owner David Graham ran into delays with the state to get a permit to remove the asbestos in the building. But, despite the delays city officials are just glad work to tear down the old hotel has started.

It's been an eye-sore in Sioux Falls that hasn't gone away. But, city planning director Mike Cooper told the city council Monday that progress is starting to be made at the old Oaks hotel.

"That's the good news. Although its taking longer, the good news is at least it's underway at this time," Cooper said.

Problems with the Oaks date back two years when city inspectors sent owner David Graham a six page letter detailing all the health and property violations at the hotel. A few months later the hotel closed.

But, that was just the beginning. Since it closed, the Oaks has been vandalized and looted, the city had to pay $2,400 to a contractor to board up the building, and Graham has been fined $1,200 for the violations.

Mayor Mike Huether and Graham announced the building would be demolished at the end of June, and the building is still standing. But, Cooper says the asbestos work that is happening inside is encouraging.

"We know a lot of people are watching him. We're watching him. He understands that and he's again told us he wants to make progress, that he wants to get the entire building out of there yet this fall," Cooper said.

And the city is checking with the contractor removing the asbestos every couple days to make sure the work is being done. 

"We know that the other surrounding properties are also watching this and are a little frustrated on the lack of progress. Again, we know he's working on it, and he knows we're watching him as well. So, I think he's wanting to get it done as soon as possible himself," Cooper said.

Graham wants to transfer his liquor license from the Oaks to a new downtown business. Council member Michelle Erpenbach said Monday night she's willing to hold off on approving that transfer until all Graham's fines are paid and the demolition happens, because she said right now the oaks is an "embarrassment."
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