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Korner Bar building comes down in Hardwick

Lead Summary
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Mavis Fodness

Two derelict buildings on Hardwick’s Main Street were demolished Monday, drastically changing the historic streetscape of the town.
The demolition follows the city’s role in facilitating Linda and Steve DeSplinter’s kitchen remodel in their Green Lantern Bar and Grill.
The project has been hindered by their exterior wall being too close (about a foot gap) to the next-door vacant and dilapidated buildings.
The east-side property comprises two buildings that once housed KJ’s Korner Bar, which closed over a decade ago when owner Lori Wendt ended a business operation agreement.
More than $3,850 in special assessments was owed on the property, plus past due utility, property maintenance and non-payment penalties totaling $9,875.
At their Dec. 14 meeting, Hardwick City Council members agreed to waive the fees and penalties on the property if a purchase agreement between the DeSplinters and Wendt was completed within 30 days.
At their Jan. 12 meeting, the city approved the demolition permit to the DeSplinters. The sale closed Jan. 13.
The DeSplinters paid $1 to Wendt and $107 plus late fees to the county for delinquent taxes on the four lots where the two buildings stood.
The council approved $5,000 to the DeSplinters to help with the estimated $25,000 to demolish and level the property.
The city received $5,000 from Arthur Moeller American Legion Post, which manages the fundraising pull tabs at the Green Lantern.
“We don’t have any enterprising funds to tear down buildings,” said city clerk Tammy Johnson.
“They (the Legion) thought it would be a benefit to the city and helpful, because we can’t use taxpayer dollars to do anything to help.”
Wendt purchased the building and KJ’s business in 2003 from Randy Johnson, whose late wife, Kathy, operated the bar and used her initials for the business’s name.
Various people operated the bar until about 2008. The building has since been in disrepair and was still owned by Wendt.
The city has received numerous complaints of rodents and other small animals living in the former bar and of bricks falling from the building’s 1904 facade.
Linda DeSplinter told council members at their Dec. 14 meeting she offered to purchase the building from Wendt. The sale, however, was contingent on whether the city was willing to waive overdue utility payments and abate special assessments placed on the property.
Dozens of people have operated businesses in the demolished buildings during their 118-year history.
In addition to a bar, the buildings previously housed a bowling alley and hardware store, and the east side exterior brick wall was a favorite location for people to etch their names in the bricks.
Fluit Farms Excavating and Scrap of Kenneth began demolition of the buildings Monday morning.
Many of the bricks shattered as the excavator hit the century-old wall during the demolition process. However, many of the Sioux quartzite lintels were saved.
The DeSplinters said they have no plans to develop the newly acquired lots, which will be leveled for the time being.

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