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Lincoln plans to demolish former nursery after complaints

August 9, 2018

In this Aug. 3, 2018 photo, Tosh Utsumi walks past a pile of rubble that used to make up part of a one-acre greenhouse that he has removed from his central Lincoln, Neb., property. "I'm making progress, but I'm only one man - it takes time," he said. (Eric Gregory/Lincoln Journal Star via AP)

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A former nursery and plant shop called Azalealand has become an eyesore that neighbors and the city of Lincoln want to clean up.

Lincoln is considering spending more than $100,000 to clear out the property filled with debris, discarded greenhouse materials and unsold flower pots, the Lincoln Journal Star reported. The city has been fielding complaints about the property from neighbors for years, officials said.

“They were complaining about the general condition,” said assistant city attorney Chris Connolly. “There was a safety risk; kids could get into those buildings and hurt themselves. It was an eyesore.”

Owner Hitoshi Utsumi’s parents opened Azalealand in the 1940s. The business grew big enough to manage an acre of plants and flowers and add a fleet of delivery vans.

Utsumi had to close the business in 2010, when he and his wife were diagnosed with cancer. He said the property got away from him when he lost his wife and mother as he was recovering from his own illness.

“There was nothing I could do,” he said. “There was no one to take it over.”

City inspectors declared the buildings dangerous and structurally unsound a few years ago.

Utsumi pledged to demolish and clean the property. He had a crew tear down the greenhouse last year, but it was months after the deadline. He’s entirely missed other deadlines.

The city wants to take on the demolition, which officials hope to complete by this fall. But the city-county health department first has to remove asbestos, underground fuel tanks and contaminated soil.

Connolly said he’s confident Lincoln could sell the property to recover demolition costs. Utsumi would be given whatever profit is leftover. Connolly said Azalealand should make prime real estate, with utilities and in a desirable neighborhood.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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