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MURPHYSBORO — Murphysbro Mayor Will Stephens can check another item off his to-do list, one that’s been on it for about six years.

Earlier this week, demolition crews came in to begin taking down a portion of the old Brown Shoe Factory on 19th Street.

“It was a good feeling because it was something I campaigned on six years ago,” Stephens said of watching the work. The crumbling structure has long been a safety concern for residents, as well as city officials.

Stephens said previously that the structure posed a significant safety and liability risk, not just for the owners, but for the city. He said it would be reasonable to assume anyone harmed or who had property harmed as a result of the building’s condition could seek legal action, not just against the owners but also against the city, because the building has for years failed to meet city code.

In February, the City of Murphysboro finalized a deal with Carol Hohman to loan her $44,500 to have work done, which includes demolition and erecting a fence around the debris according to the contract. The deal also stipulates that Hohman will pay the city after completion of the project, and that Hohman has put two Carbondale rental properties up as collateral against the loan.

The term of the loan is 10 years with 2 percent interest.

While the progress is good, there are still some details to sort out.

“It’s really an imperfect situation,” Stephens said Thursday.

While the loan helped tear the building down and secure the debris, he said it doesn’t cover cleanup. He said this is a concern — because of the environmental hazards in the building when it was demolished “you have to treat all of that pile of brick as contaminated waste.”

Still though, one step forward is a good thing, Stephens said.

“We measure success in whatever we can find.”

Still on his to-do list, though, are seeing the groundbreaking of the years-delayed Holiday Inn Express development. Stephens said Joe Koppeis, the site’s developer, has been beset by some personal challenges. Last month, Koppeis' home burned down, leaving a family member dead.

That said, Stephens said he is still trying to make progress on the project, even turning in new drawings that show a recently-approved entrance. These wait for the city’s approval after being reviewed by its engineer.

In his talks with Koppeis, he said the developer is not deterred and still plans to begin building this summer. As for the city’s involvement, Stephens said there’s little more they could do.

“We’ve done everything we can do in terms of providing TIF (funds) and just trying to be a collaborative partner,” he said.

As for what’s to be done with the remaining Brown Shoe Factory complex, Stephens said he hopes the owners can find a tenant to bring some life back to the property. He even pointed to the city of Litchfield where an almost identical Brown Shoe Factory building has been converted into loft apartments.

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isaac.smith@thesouthern.com

618-351-5823

On Twitter: @ismithreports

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Isaac Smith is a reporter covering Jackson County.

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