by: BY JEFF MCDONALD - Some Woodburn city councilors are concerned about the deteriorating condition of the 1948-built Pix Theater, which is now vacant.In the wake of escalating complaints, Woodburn City Councilor Frank Lonergan called on the city last week to take a more active role against owners to fix up their potentially unsafe downtown buildings.

Lonergan, who represents Ward 5, which includes most of downtown, heard complaints about broken windows, black mold and other concerns at the Pix Theater at a Historic Woodburn Neighborhoods Association meeting earlier this month.

Built in 1948, the once iconic building has gone downhill over the years and currently sits vacant on First Street.

“I want to make an official complaint,” said Lonergan at the July 8 city council meeting. “From what I’m hearing, the building is in a state of disrepair and is potentially dangerous to surrounding buildings. It is the city’s duty to at least look into that.”

Another city councilor, Lisa Ellsworth, has toured the building and became physically sick with her eyes running and lungs burning from the mold inside, she said.

“The building has active black mold and structural issues,” she said. “It is definitely not a cosmetic fix. They would need an expert to come in and see if it’s salvageable.”

Lonergan would like to see the building’s owner, Shanah Ayesh, fix up the building or sell it quickly.

“The building is an eyesore,” he said. “I’d like to see it in a usable state.”

For his part, Ayesh is still looking for investors in the property. He has received at least one offer from an adjacent property owner, but the offer was not enough, he said.

He also said the city should give more through its grant and loan program, which currently matches exterior improvements up to $10,000 and interior improvements up to $5,000.

“If the city has a use for the community, they should fix it up,” Ayesh said. “They should give us more money to fix it up for the community.”

Next steps for the city is sending building officials to inspect the Pix for any violation of city ordinances, according to Bob Shields, city attorney.

“We have filed lawsuits in the past,” Shields said. “The building administrator would need to see if there is an immediate threat.”

No plans have been made to inspect the Pix as the city’s building official was on vacation last week, according to Jason Horton, communications coordinator for the city.

Lonergan has not received any complaints other than the Pix, he said. But several other buildings are in poor condition and will be expensive to fix, city officials have said.

Last summer, the city declared Mayor Kathy Figley’s downtown building on Grant Street “structurally deficient” after a portion of the façade became partially detached from the building.

Figley had a chain-link fence erected, blocking sidewalk access on one side of the building.

The mayor plans to have the exterior portion demolished and reconstructed with an interior remodel, she said.

The project is estimated to cost at least $100,000, she said.

“You have to make sure you have your ducks in a row and the plan to carry it out,” she said. “This is not a small project.”

Her architectural firm, Portland-based DECA Architecture Inc., is working on plans, which should be ready to go out for construction bid in August.

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