A joint motion was filed on Monday by both parties named in the lawsuit which sought to have the vacant Ramsay-McCormack building demolished.
This casts more uncertainty into the future of the building which was subject to both a $40 million renovation by the city and a court-ordered demolition last week. A source close to the case indicated both parties are seeking “alternative options” in lieu of the possible renovation.
On December 1, Jefferson County Circuit Judge Michael Graffeo ruled the Ramsay-McCormack Building in Ensley, which Mayor William Bell announced on Wednesday would receive a $40 million dollar renovation to relocate the police and fire department headquarters, must be demolished.
The motion asks the court to “alter, amend or vacate [the] order dated December 1.” Antonio Spurling, the plaintiff in the lawsuit, said he is looking forward to discussing possible plans for the building but declined to comment on the developing situation.
Graffeo is expected to hold a status conference about the future of the building later this week. The joint motion indicates that both parties are interested in discussing future plans for the Ramsay-McCormack building.
Last week’s decision came in a 2012 lawsuit by Playover Games and Movies LLC, Hope International LLC, and the Ensley Revitalization Committee. Graffeo granted a permanent injunction on behalf of the plaintiffs, and essentially ordered that the city of Birmingham – the owner of the Ramsay-McCormack Building – demolish it.
The six-count complaint is as follows: Count One, Negligence; Count Two, Breach of Contract; Count Three, Declaratory Judgement (demolition of building); Count Four, Private Nuisance; Count Five, Public Nuisance; Count Six, Pollution and Contamination. On March 6, 2013, the court dismissed counts two and three.
According to the decision, “On or before February 10, 2017, the city shall have completed the bidding process and awarded a contract to demolish the building, including backfilling the resulting lot to level grade without fencing.”
The decision also requires that the demolition must begin by March 10, 2017, and must be completed by April 28, 2017. By May 26, 2017, the city must have either awarded a contract or use the Public Works Department to repave or repair portions of the sidewalk along Avenue E and 19th Street, adjacent to the 10-story Ramsay McCormack building. The building has been vacant in downtown Ensley since 1986.
As noted in the lawsuit, the building was subject to prior litigation in 2008 between the same parties. On November 10, 2014, the plaintiffs “filed a petition seeking injunctive relief, again seeking the demolition of the building.”
April Odom, the mayor’s director of communications, said they were aware of the lawsuit before making the announcement for the $40 million renovation on Wednesday. “We were aware of the lawsuit and will go back to Judge Graffeo with the restoration plan for the building. The Public Safety complex plan for Ensley will remain in that area either way.”
It is unclear on whether the $40 million will be allocated to relocate the complex or build it elsewhere. Odom said that in line with the mayor’s goal,“The complex will be built in Ensley.” Odom did not indicate if the city is planning to officially appeal the decision or if the city will still spend $40 million on the project.
Jimmy Crane, owner of Gilmer Drugs in Ensley, was named in the lawsuit as a witness. “I am in full support of the order and the way it stands,” Crane said on Friday. “For small businesses like us, this is something that’s needed to be done and I hope it doesn’t take another 18 months or something like that.” He had not had a chance to read the entire decision and declined to comment further.
Ron Deramus, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit and a pastor at Hope International, said of the decision, “Hallelujah.” But he had not yet heard about the decision before he was contacted by a reporter and did not want to comment further until he had time to read the decision and speak with a lawyer.
Updated on Monday 12/05 at 6:00 p.m. with new information.