SAUGUS — It seems everyone in town agrees the Karla’s Shoes building needs to go — except the people who actually own the building.
The decrepit, run-down red building sits on the southbound of Route 1 just ahead of the Main Street Wakefield exit, overgrown with weeds and covered in graffiti. It’s already been marked as a do not enter by the fire department, and local officials have repeatedly said they believe the building is a safety risk. Yet, despite its condition, the building’s owners are committed to trying to sell it, according to Director of Public Health John Fralick.
According to assessing records, Isabelle Smith has owned the building since January 1985. The building is now valued at $518,400 — with most of the value, $391,600, attributed to the land it sits on.
At the urging of Board of Selectmen Vice Chair Debra Panetta, Fralick provided an update on the status of the property at a Board of Health meeting Monday night. Essentially, he said, the town’s hands are tied.
“What we’re dealing with right now is just kind of a delusions of grandeur type situation where they think they’re going to be able to get so much money by selling the property,” Fralick said.
Panetta stressed that she believes the building is a safety hazard, noting the possibility of a piece of the building breaking off and falling onto the bustling highway below. The building is also an eyesore and does not have a place in Saugus, she said.
“It’s hugely problematic,” Panetta said.
Fralick said the town is considering options like commercial receivership, and has tried to convince the building’s owners that the property would likely be worth more as a patch of land on the side of the highway than as a decrepit building. But, he said, that suggestion has fallen on deaf ears.
He agreed with Panetta’s concerns, adding that the building is “definitely an imminent hazard” to pedestrians and to potential squatters who might try to enter it.
With the town having a bylaw outlawing graffiti, Fralick said Saugus is likely to use the building’s graffiti as a way to force some action on the property.
“At the very least they’re going to have to get down there and do some sort of work,” he said. “It’s kind of like a well, once you’re already down there why don’t you tear this down?”
“We are taking as much action as we can in the short term,” Fralick added.