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Home leveled, but what about greenhouses?

City says it has open file on Swartley's

The city says it is actively seeking the demolition of dilapidated structures at the Swartley's greenhouse complex at 1820 16th Ave. The business closed a couple of years ago.
The city says it is actively seeking the demolition of dilapidated structures at the Swartley's greenhouse complex at 1820 16th Ave. The business closed a couple of years ago.

STERLING – The city leveled a condemned house on 16th Avenue in recent days.

Last year, officials condemned the house at 1820 16th Ave., declaring it unsafe. For a long time, a tarp had been placed over the run-down roof, which caused much damage inside the house.

It was easy to miss the 16th Avenue house, shaded by large trees.

A month ago, Sauk Valley Media ran a story about the city's plan to demolish the house by the end of June. After reading the story, 18th Avenue resident Don McKee tried to find the house in question. He went by several times before spotting it.

"I barely noticed it," he said.

McKee wondered what the city was doing with the dilapidated greenhouse complex behind Swartley's Florists and Greenhouses, 1706 E. Fifth St., which closed a couple of years ago. He considered that situation worse than the one on 16th Avenue.

The structures have no walls, just frames. Trees and bushes grow inside. The front part of the Swartley's complex, though, appears to be in good condition.

In the last few weeks, the frame for one greenhouse has been taken down.

Amanda Schmidt, the city's building and zoning superintendent, said the city has an open file on Swartley's and is "actively" seeking the demolition of the remaining dilapidated structures.

A permit to demolish three sections of the greenhouses was granted last September, Schmidt said. The owner leveled two of the structures shortly after.

As for comparisons with the 16th Avenue house, Schmidt said, the two situations are "completely" different.

"The house on 16th Avenue has had tarps on the roof for well over 5 years, and during that time, the roof has continued to allow moisture in and has led to an unbelievably large amount of mold to be present in the home," she said in an email. "As such, the house was condemned as unfit for human habitation."

Swartley's, which spanned four generations over more than 100 years, closed in 2004. In 2007, real estate agents Ed and Patty Cox reopened Swartley's. Their manager said he would work to restore the greenhouse complex.

In 2011, the business closed again.

Loren Swartley, who lives near the complex, owns the buildings, which he hopes to demolish this year.

"I have complied with everything the city has told me to do," he said. "They would like to see the buildings down. We agreed."

McKee, who lives near Swartley's, also wants to see the buildings demolished.

"We have to look at this mess all the time," he said.

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