Beating them to the punch
Orders were issued Wednesday morning to begin razing Superior's historic Palace Theater at noon, and by6 p.m. it had largely been demolished. The order by Mayor Dave Ross came before the city was served with a federal court order to indefinitely ...
Orders were issued Wednesday morning to begin razing Superior's historic Palace Theater at noon, and by6 p.m. it had largely been demolished.
The order by Mayor Dave Ross came before the city was served with a federal court order to indefinitely halt demolition.
"It's to the city's peril not to proceed with demolition," Ross said. "The last thing we want to do is get involved in costly federal litigation over a building that needs to come down."
A group of preservationists called the Friends of Superior filed a complaint in federal court Wednesday morning seeking a restraining order. It was filed with the Wisconsin Western District Court in Madison. Friends President Kris Fisher said she filed the case online and was still in the process of responding to court inquiries and identifying Friends members when the mayor made the decision to proceed with demolition. City councilors are scheduled to address Palace-related matters at a special meeting at 6 p.m. today.
Court officials confirmed the injunction had been filed, but no hearing date has been scheduled.
Port and Planning Director Jason Serck, City Attorney Frog Prell and City Clerk Margaret Ciccone were not aware a restraining order had been filed and said the city had not received a summons from the court when the mayor made his decision to proceed, even though he earlier had planned to delay demolition until Friday.
The crane parked on North 11th Street was running and ready to go Tuesday. But demolition was halted when Ross received a letter from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development concerning Community Development Block Grant funding for another project. Ross called for today's special council session to review HUD's letter, which says the agency would release block grant money for the purchase of Odyssey's and End Zone bars only after the city completes an environmental review and complies with National Historic Preservation Act requirements concerning the Palace Theater demolition plan.
"Once it has been demonstrated to our office that the City of Superior has complied with Section 106, and therefore completed your environmental review process, we can approve your Request for Release of Funds," said the letter, signed on behalf of Robert Berlan, director of the Office of Community Planning and Development with HUD in Milwaukee.
HUD's decision came after a complaint was filed by the National Trust of Historic Preservation to halt the release of block grant money. It was allocated for the purchase and demolition of Odyssey's and the End Zone. The Trust contends the city hasn't taken a holistic approach in addressing the two tavern projects, even though there were no plans to use block grant money to demolish the Palace.
Ross said the city worked closely with HUD officials to pay for the purchase of the tavern buildings. Although they were mentioned in the Palace redevelopment project, Ross said he was never told the city would have to include the Palace in its environmental review of the two bars. He doesn't intend to modify the review to include the Palace.
The two projects evolved separately and only collided at the point of demolition, Ross said.
Facing the expense of litigating a second restraining order sought by the Friends of Superior, Ross said he called the council president and decided to move ahead with demolition Wednesday. Ross estimated that further project delays could be more costly than the $376,900 in CDBG money the city was seeking.