Man says he can save historic Elm Street building

This screen capture from drone video footage provided by Cody Dean shows the Owosso Casket company building where the roof has collapsed. The photo looks south to north. The recent collapse at top right was the justification for the city to consider demolition.

OWOSSO — City officials will argue in 35th Circuit Court next week that the city should be allowed to proceed with the demolition of a building on South Elm Street, despite pleas from a local man who says it can be saved.

According to a case filed Oct. 8, city officials are slated to argue before Judge Matthew Stewart at 1:15 p.m. Oct. 19 that the one-time Owosso Casket Company building must be demolished.

“Demolition is what we will continue to pursue, based on our engineer’s report. The time to save this building has passed. It is simply too far gone,” City Manager Nathan Henne said Wednesday via email.

Henne said an estimate for the demolition of the 37,000-square-foot building came in at about $240,000.

On the morning of Sept. 20, a passerby told officials they heard the sound of the roof collapsing. After investigating, officials found that the eastern portion of the roof had fallen inward. A second portion of the roof, in the southwest corner, already had apparently collapsed at an unknown time.

The city blocked off Elm Street in case the eastern wall of the building, which they say is bowed outward, falls.

After the city announced its intention to demolish the building, Owosso resident Michael Luongo came forward to suggest he could put a roof on to enclose the structure and prevent demolition. Luongo has said he’s in the process of buying the building from owner Kimberly Guerra.

Henne said both Luongo and Guerra have been served notice of the hearing “even though we have nothing to indicate that Luongo has actually signed anything for an ownership transfer.

“Mr. Luongo was included because we know he has expressed interest in purchasing the property,” Henne said.

Henne said the city is basing its demolition decision on the report by a structural engineer who examined the building. Owosso Building Official Brad Hissong said the engineer’s report made him fearful the wall could collapse and injure someone.

“So far, no contrary opinion has been offered by a structural engineer working on behalf of Guerra/Luongo,” Henne noted.

Luongo said he is unsure about whether the process will move forward.

“I have had two structural engineers look at it. One of whom believes it can be fixed and, I believe, has a good plan. I have a quote from a shoring company that is within reason for shoring the building. I have a plan for what to present in court,” he said.

“However, with the signed land contract … it was signed with power of attorney. My attorney wanted a better power of attorney document and the land contract re-signed to make sure the LC would stand in court. The previous owner now wants to change a lot of terms of the land contract four business days before the hearing.

“From what I have heard from her mom, she believes she has 21 days to respond when, in reality, I fully expect the city of Owosso to make their case for immediate demo of the building on Tuesday,” Luongo said.

Guerra is currently serving a prison sentence. Her family is representing her interests, the city has said previously.

Luongo, who purchased two dilapidated Corunna buildings in 2017 and is renovating them, said he could demolish the damaged portion of the upper wall of the Owosso building, enclose the collapsed roof and rebuild its upper floors for an estimated $120,000. His long-term plans would include apartments. He hopes to pursue grant funding for the project.

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