City seeks to demolish former Panda Buffet

2014-01-30T12:00:00Z 2014-01-30T17:55:07Z City seeks to demolish former Panda BuffetBy Darren DaRonco Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The city is looking to raze the dilapidated building on East Broadway that once housed Panda Buffet.

The city staff will ask for council approval during Tuesday’s meeting to demolish the building at 2419 E.Broadway.

The building has become a beacon for crime and vandalism since the Panda Buffet shut its doors in September 2012.

Thieves have stripped the building of its copper wire and destroyed its electrical and mechanical systems, a city memo says.

Repairs for the electrical system alone are estimated at $50,000.  It would cost about $70,000 to tear the building down.

Neighbors fear the demolition could signal that other homes and businesses are next in line for demolition to better accommodate the controversial plan to widen Broadway.

Residents and government officials have clashed over the proposed project for years. The plan was to expand Broadway beginning in 2016, extending east from downtown to improve future traffic congestion.

But what infuriated some residents was that the plan would destroy dozens of homes and businesses along the corridor.

The city put together a citizens task force in 2012 involving neighbors, traffic consultants and city officials to help find a compromise. The group is scheduled to continue working on the Broadway plan until about the end of this year.

Although the mayor and council halted future property acquisition or demolition along the Broadway corridor until the task force reaches a conclusion, the city staff said the building has become a hotbed of criminal activity and needs to come down. The staff also said its demolition is not a precursor to an expanded demolition effort.

Councilman Steve Kozachik, who represents that stretch of Broadway and has fought for an alternative to the original expansion plan for years, said meetings are already underway with neighbors on what to do with that property once it’s torn down. They also are getting assurances from the city that it won’t tear down any more buildings until the task force completes its work.

The city purchased the building in 2010 for $858,500 as part of the Broadway expansion project and leased it to the restaurant.

Since 1989, the city has made 18 purchases totaling $7.6 million along Broadway for the expansion project. Most of the money, about 70 percent, came from sources other than the city’s coffers, such as the Pima Association of Governments and the Regional Transportation Authority.

Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or ddaronco@azstarnet.com. Follow on twitter @DarrenDaRonco

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