Condemned building still active inside
The former Wetmore Security Building at 2701 Wetmore Ave. as it stood last week. The building was condemned by city orders in October.
EVERETT — Nine months after its condemnation, the building at 2701 Wetmore Ave. is no closer to officially reopening than the day its tenants were ordered to be evicted. But it is not vacant.
The city’s hearing examiner ordered the mixed business residential building vacated effective Nov. 2, 2017.
Despite the order, businesses were still operating onsite as of July 13.
Officially known as the Wetmore Security Building, the site was recently best known for SNAX, a ground floor café that offered hot dogs and chili, and was popular for its ice cream floats.
The menu was well suited to its location a block down from Funko and across the street from the Everett Performing Arts and Village Theater complex.
Five people resided in the mixed-use space, five more did business there, and twelve employees made a living at 2701 Wetmore, owner Laura Hunter told the City Council in September. Hunter also owned SNAX and another onsite business, Beyond
Photography. SNAX quietly liquidated its equipment on June 2.
As for tenants in violation of the hearing examiner’s order, there is no guarantee the city will visit to confirm the condemnation order has been obeyed.
“Code enforcement reviews a condemnation and considers whether to conduct additional enforcement and then coordinates with the City’s legal department,” said city spokeswoman Kari Goepfert in an email.
Permits issued last year have expired and the city has not heard from Hunter, said city building official Tony Lee.
“We’re not officially aware of any tenants,” at the property Lee said in a July 9 interview. He said it was the owner’s responsibility to follow hearing examiner’s orders to vacate. Lee said if any tenants were at the property, they were there in violation of the order.
After a series of summer 2017 inspections, the city’s building inspector, Police Department Code Enforcement officer and the fire marshal all sounded the alarm on the structure.
“Unpermitted work has seriously compromised the integrity of the building’s electrical, plumbing and fire safety systems,” read a Sept. 5 report from the city code enforcement.
Inspectors detailed the dangerous conditions and illegal building alterations in numerous pages of documents.
Several types of safety hazards were noted throughout the building, from fall hazards to missing doors to a shortage of smoke detectors. Inspectors identified 19 electrical system violations. Sprinklers were only installed in parts of the building, and existing sprinklers were not all
functional according to the documents.
Other problems included non-permitted uses. In one instance, a laundry business had been illegally converted into a residence. Construction of another unpermitted dwelling was also underway in a storage area. A church in the building was over its occupancy limit and a meeting space only offered one way out rather than the required two exits.
Hunter declined to comment for this article, but she argued against the building’s condemnation last fall.
At the Sept. 20 City Council meeting, Hunter defended her operation, contrasting her time in the building with conditions before she bought it.
“It was frightening, truly,” Hunter said. “There was massive drug problems, police problems, an illegal hookah bar, illegal strippers, an illegal underage nightclub and a shooting three days before I took over. Since then I’ve cleaned it up, it’s a really nice building, there are professionals in it, residents in it … it’s changed very very much.”
At an Oct. 26 hearing, Hunter said a disgruntled contractor led the initial Aug. 8 inspection without permission, and it was the contractor who had not secured the required permits.
Hunter had applied for permits to address some of the violations and said at the hearing she spent $30,000 to bring the building into compliance, but the efforts were not enough. The Hearing Examiner denied Hunter’s request for a delay on the condemnation.
Today, the former cafe is deserted, a vacant corner on a vital corridor.
“We of course would hope” the owner would remedy the code violations, Lee said during a July 2 interview. “We do like to have vibrant, open and safe buildings. We don’t enjoy this process but we need to have public safety.”
What more the city or Hunter may do to ensure tenants are safe remains to be seen.
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