By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TRENTON — One way or the other, city officials said residents can expect to see long-awaited signs of progress at the former Riverside Hospital building and grounds.
It remains possible that property owner Dr. Iqbal Nasir will soon begin addressing long-overlooked issues at the Jefferson Avenue property. After several years of inactivity Nasir last week submitted a tentative plan and timetable for work on the property; failing that, city council approved last month having legal options explored. City Administrator Jim Wagner said that either Nasir will follow through or the city will continue seeking legal remedies.
“We’re still proceeding in court,” Wagner said. “Dr. Nasir submitted a plan, and we’ve requested more specifics.”
Wagner said that Nasir last week informed Mayor Kyle Stack that he has solicited bids to begin mold-removal and demolition work, and that he hoped to award the contracts next month for a project start no later than May 15.
However, Wagner said the submitted plan was too vague, and that city officials responded with questions he hopes will be answered this week.
Wagner said city officials, after years of delays and miscommunications, welcomed Nasir’s plans and remain hopeful that court actions are not necessary.
“I’m always encouraged when we have communication between parties,” Wagner said. “That means something could happen for the best. When I see something moving forward I’ll be optimistic.”
Any signs of activity will be welcome, Wagner said, whether taking care of the blighted grounds or getting crews in to abate lead, mold and asbestos. The plan calls for demolition of the old church and boiler buildings, and restoration and remodeling for an office building.
The facility has been idle for years, even prior to when Nasir purchased it from Henry Ford Health Systems three years ago with plans for an assisted living facility. Nasir, chief of staff at Oakwood Southshore Medical Center, is also developing a comparable property in Riverside.
More questions than answers remain, but Wagner said Nasir was expected to provide more details this week, and either the next few weeks will bring continued progress or the city will continue seeking legal remedies to a long standing problem. Among other requests will be that Nasir be forced to allow an inspection and review by the dangerous building board. The property has increasingly attracted vandals, scavengers and curiosity-seekers, posing problems beyond unsightly blight.
“It’s difficult for the people in that neighborhood,” Wagner said. “The mayor believes people have waited long enough.”
(James Mitchell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)