Eyesore Witmark near GR set to meet with wrecking ball

Kent County

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — As a shopper, Tom Preston remembers Witmark’s catalog showrooms featuring everything from jewelry to electronics.

“Especially around holidays and birthdays, I used to come here and get everything,” Preston said.

That was nearly 25 years ago.

“Now it’s just a big eyesore, especially the broken concrete and the deterioration of the exterior. It really is a eyesore for the whole Plainfield Township neighborhood,” said Preston, who drives by the building on Jupiter Avenue at Plainfield Avenue NE north of Grand Rapids every day.

The Witmark building could come down as early as this week.

That’s the word from Plainfield Township officials, who hope to put to rest some of the rumors and speculation over the fate of the long-vacant retail building.

Part of the confusion comes from a for-sale sign recently placed on the building. It’s for the sale of the soon-to-be-vacant property, not the structure.

“Which is, from our perspective, is great. We would like to see that property go into productive use again,” Plainfield Township Superintendent Cameron Van Wyngarden said.

Once a popular catalog showroom that operated several stores in the area starting in 1969, Witmark went out of business in 1997. The company sign at the Plainfield store still stands, does the long-vacant showroom. Plywood covers most of the doors and windows. Weeds have grown through cracks in the parking lot.

New York-based owner Martin Oliner of Regency Equities Corporation says he was unable to sell the building over the years.

“We tried to sell it a number of times but had no offers,” Oliner told News 8 over the phone Monday.

So it continued to fall apart.

This summer, the township board ordered the building torn down, citing dangerous, vacant and blighted conditions. The township’s Construction Board of Appeals backed the decision last month after Oliner filed an appeal.

Oliner said he had already entered into an agreement with the Pitsch demolition company prior to the appeal but was concerned with other provisions in the order.

The dispute aside, township officials say they expect the building to come down soon.

“I want to make it clear that demolition would be at the cost of the owner, not the taxpayer,” Van Wyngarden said. “It’s a vacant, dilapidated structure that’s blighted our community for far too long, so we’re ready for it to go away.”

What may replace the building won’t be determined until the property is actually sold.

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