Board rejects Exchange fire victims' plea for a share in proceeds from insurance

June 13, 1996|By A SUN STAFF WRITER

Residents and business owners, all victims of the Hollins Street Exchange fire in November, asked the Board of Estimates yesterday to share $480,000 paid by the insurer of the burned building.

Their pleas went unheeded. The board voted not to give any of its share to the victims, who filed a lawsuit last month against owners of the Hollins Street Exchange alleging negligence.

"The reality of it is, the city has no legal responsibility, but they have a moral one to help us," said Bryant L. Claiborne, who lost his 2-year-old business to the Nov. 10 fire.

The seven-story building in the 2300 block of Hollins St. housed businesses, including furniture makers and recording studios.

About 20 of the residents and business owners attended yesterday's meeting asking city leaders to give them funds to help rebuild.

Board president Lawrence A. Bell III said that he sympathized with them, but the city needed the money as repayment of part of the city's loans to the building's owners, Alvin and Cary Blank, principals of Hollins Street Exchange Limited Partnership.

At its last meeting, the board approved an agreement in which the city received less than 50 cents on the dollar for $266,666 in city loans. The city also was assured that the owners will raze the building.

Under that agreement, the city will receive $50,000 now from the partnership, and another $50,000 in a year or $75,000 in 18 months.

The owners also will use $80,000 from fire insurance and any other funds needed to tear the building down, according to the agreement. In return, the city will forgive loan guarantees from the the Blanks.

Stanley R. Scipio, a tenant and owner of a television production business who estimates his losses from the fire at $230,000, said that he was not surprised at the board's decision.

"I think all of us kind of knew that it might not happen today," he said.

"To me this was just a listening session," said Ricky A. Ratliff, who estimates his losses at $150,000. But Ratliff remains positive that the pending lawsuit will bring good news.

Thirty-seven tenants who were burned out have sued their former landlords for $4.8 million, claiming the Blanks and their partnership rented the building without permits that could have ensured the building's safety.

The suit also names the owners and former operator of a vacant building on Landwehr Lane, where the fire began across the street from Hollins Street Exchange. Fire officials have said the blaze was set accidentally by homeless people in the vacant building.

"I know we are going to get something," Ratliff said.

Pub Date: 6/13/96

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