Belleville

August 30, 2014

City to Main Street Market: Confirm intent, or we demolish

Owners of a west Belleville grocery store destroyed by a fire in June will soon have to decide whether to rebuild or demolish the building, city officials said.

The city sent a letter dated Aug. 8 to John Carpenter, who owns the lot where Main Street Market sits, giving him 30 days to say whether he will rebuild.

The neighborhood market at 8193 W. Main St. was gutted by a fire on June 16.

Fire investigators said an equipment malfunction likely caused the fire, but the official cause is undetermined, Fire Chief Tom Pour said.

Building and Zoning Commissioner Paul Bauman indicated in the letter to Carpenter that the city plans on taking legal action to condemn and demolish the building unless a licensed architect or engineer confirms Carpenter's intent to rebuild.

City officials had not heard from Carpenter as of Friday.

Carpenter could not be reached for comment. Mike Chenault, Carpenter's longtime partner in owning and operating the market, also could not be reached for comment.

Chenault and Carpenter managed the market for about 42 years.

According to an agreement filed with the St. Clair County Recorder of Deeds in February, Carpenter and Chenault sold the Main Street Market lots bond for deed to Harvin Enterprises Inc., Arvind Aggrawal and Dimple Aggrawal.

"The purchaser agrees to pay the purchase price as outlined in said contract for deed with the last installment to be due and payable on April 20, 2022, at which time Thomas Benedick, escrow agent, or its successor in interest, will deliver to purchaser a warranty deed conveying said real estate," according to the amended contract for deed.

The purchase price and installments were not listed in the amended contract for deed. The initial contract for deed was not filed.

The Aggrawals completed a business occupancy application with the city in January and operated the market until the fire forced the business to close. The Edwardsville couple previously owned a liquor store in Granite City.

Arvind Aggrawal, or "Vin," declined to comment further on Thursday except to say he cannot discuss rebuilding the market until insurance issues are resolved.

Bob Sabo, director of the city's Health, Housing and Building Department, said city staff sent the letter to Carpenter -- and not the Aggrawals -- because he is listed as the property owner on the county's tax rolls.

Sabo said there are no safety issues at the site as long as the building remains secure. The building is boarded up and there is no danger of the walls collapsing, he added.

"But the place does need to be cleaned up," Sabo said. "It can't stay in the condition that it's in. Demolition will have to take place."

Pour said his staff, Sabo's staff and the county's health inspectors worked with owners to make sure the building was as safe as it could be before the start of school.

The Fire Department, working with insurance company investigators, ruled that the cause of the fire is undetermined, but likely that the fire was caused by a mechanical failure of some sort, Pour said.

The fire started in the back of the building where there were many pieces of old equipment, Pour said.

"They couldn't pin it down to one exact piece," Pour said.

Pour said investigators used a bucket truck to note the various equipment in the market and take photos but could not narrow down the origin of the fire to an exact cause, such as a compressor or electric motor.

Days before the fire, electrical work was being done at the store and a city electrical inspector found that the wiring above the drop ceiling in the main room of the store was adequately fixed. The business had until June 30 to address other electrical violations.

Sabo has said the city allowed the market to stay open because none of the violations made the building unsafe for customers.

Earlier in the year, the building occupancy change -- from Carpenter and Chenault to the Aggrawals -- prompted city inspectors to review the building and discover various building, electrical, and mechanical deficiencies. The building was built in 1946.

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 618-239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BNDJLee.

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