Bringing down the house

#topekatweetalong Monday watched as a contractor demolished a house in southeast Topeka


  1. One month update: The ground was cleared of debris and the lot looks a lot better than it did with a deteriorating house on it!

  2. Background on this house and the City's plan to tackle abandoned structures below, but first, you have to see the videos from this job.
  3. Had to clear the structure first, so we got to look inside. I've never seen anything like it.
  4. Couches overturned and rotted. Ceiling had holes through it. Personal items littered every step. There was even a photo album from the once happy couple (house was part of the divorce agreement, it turns out). And it smelled musty and stale.
  5. Then work on the demolition began. Spoiler alert: This has to be one of the most fun jobs on the planet.
  6. And now, the [abridged] story of 616 S.E. 34th St.
  7. The case to demolish this home started about 7 months ago.
  8. A code inspector surveying the area on April 28 found some weeds that needed a good trim.
  9. City crews cleaned it up May 21. While there, we discovered the structure wasn't secure -- doubly concerning because of its proximity to a playground. We made sure no one was inside, secured the residence, and started the home in our process for unsafe structures.
  10. We learned that the taxes on the property, nearly $1,200 this year, hadn't been paid since 2013, and that the home was valued at $39,200.
  11. We continued to try to contact property owners to no avail. (Though, strangely, within the past couple of weeks the woman listed on the appraiser's site as the owner called and said the house was left to her ex-husband during their divorce. Appraiser records have been updated, but otherwise, nothing has changed.)
  12. Fewer than two months later, on July 2, the case had an administrative hearing. The homeowner didn't come, and the City asked for a demolition order. The judge granted that request, and ordered a 30 day demolition order.
  13. After the 30 days passed, we inspected for asbestos, put out bids for asbestos and demolition, and awarded the bid to Scotty Wilson Enterprises.
  14. All that was left was to take down the house -- took about half an hour Monday -- and bill the owner for the demolition. Though with the luck we've had reaching him, it doesn't seem likely that we'll get our money back. In that case, the bill will either go to collections or be assessed on the tax rolls.
  15. The cost to demolish the structure is $4,800 -- about half the average cost to demolish a structure in the past five years.