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City: Progress made on Widener building, but more work remains

Demolition on part of a downtown Xenia building owned by Ohio Sen. Chris Widener has been completed, but city officials say more work needs to be done.

The city banned occupancy in the former J.C. Penney building, 45 East Main Street, after inspecting the outside of the structure on Jan. 10 and determining it was unsafe, according to emails, letters sent to Widener and inspection reports obtained by the Dayton Daily News. Signs and barriers were placed around the building. The city blocked off an area to the rear of the building as a safety zone.

Demolition on the back of the building has been completed, but repairs on the structure are in progress, according to city officials.

“Basically the demolition was to take out the outer section of the wall,” said Brian Forschner, the Xenia city planner. “That was the most immediate threat; the part that was bowing outward.”

Scaffolding, caution tape and orange safety cones remain around the building while additional work, such as restoring a wall, is waiting to be finished.

“Part of that likely is due to weather because we’ve had subzero temperatures,” Forschner said. “That complicates the process of getting masonry to set.”

Widener did not return phone calls or respond to an email from the Dayton Daily News seeking comment.

The inspection is one of a series of checks conducted by the city during the fall last year to reduce the number of deteriorating and unsafe buildings and revitalize the city.

Widener’s building is one of 59 buildings in downtown Xenia that were inspected during 2013. Nine had violations, according to city documents, but the building owned by Widener is the only one that required “immediate safety measures,” according to the city manager’s office.

About a week later, Widener, the second- highest ranking Republican in the Ohio Senate, reached an agreement with the city after an hour-long meeting with Xenia city officials.

Xenia Fire Chief Ken Riggsby said an inspection of the interior of the building has not been scheduled to allow Widener a chance to have some work inside the building completed first.

“The priority was on the exterior of the building, at the time, to make sure the safety around the structure was OK,” Riggsby said.

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