Howard’s Suit Settled, City Still Wants to Buy

Howard’s Diamond Center has settled a lawsuit with its insurance company over damage done to its vacant downtown Wheeling building during a city demolition project in 2012.

The terms of the settlement are unclear, but the jewelry store had been seeking about $700,000 in damages after the city’s contractor, Bay City, Mich.-based Dore and Associates, allegedly knocked a wall of the adjoining building onto the vacant structure. The jeweler filed suit in federal court after its insurance company, Hartford, refused to pay the resulting claim.

Lawyers on both sides had argued over the existence of a common wall between the two buildings, and how that affected whether the October 2012 incident was a covered loss.

With the insurance dispute apparently resolved, Wheeling officials now will focus on getting the building, which has stood without a roof for almost a year and a half, torn down. City officials have made it clear the building must come down. The only question now is who will foot the bill.

“We’re going to be interested in acquiring the Posin building and completing demolition,” Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron said.

The former jewelry store is one of three buildings left standing on the 1100 block that the city unsuccessfully tried to purchase several years ago. The business has since left downtown Wheeling for The Highlands retail development, and Herron said he’s had preliminary discussions with Howard’s Diamond Center owners Howard and Seth Posin concerning the building.

He declined to comment on what the city would be willing to pay for the property. The property was appraised at $68,200 in 2008, and its most recent assessed value is $29,588.

If the city ultimately purchases the former jewelry store, Herron said the demolition would go out for bid as a separate contract.