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Midtown Square owner ordered to renovate....again

Lawton_The Midtown Square property in central Lawton at 11th and West Gore Boulevard has been on the city's Dangerous & Dilapidated list for five years, and has been vacant ever since.  The city has fought the owner - Bobby Mansell - to repair the property or tear it down.  Mansell insists the property is safe, and on Wednesday told 7News that the awnings are safe enough for a person to sleep under. 

Comanche County District Judge Keith Aycock has ruled that Mansell simply did not comply with October's ruling to have a contractor chosen for the renovations, and have a permit by November 7.  When Aycock saw that Mansell had not followed through on the ruling, he called Wednesday's hearing.  He has now ordered Mansell to submit four signed contracts from contractors to the court by Friday, December 5 for asbestos abatement, roofing, and general contractor work. 

Judge Aycock also says Mansell must create a $600,000 escrow account to pay for the renovations, and if he does not comply, the judge says he will sign a demolition order.  Mansell declined comment in the courtroom, but 7News saw him later that afternoon at the property.  Mansell drove around the complex investigating the buildings for several minutes before telling 7News they were safe. 

Many folks in Lawton disagree with Manselll's assurances of safety.  "The place is dilapidated - it's rundown, the roof leaks, I'm sure there's mold in each of these offices here," said postal worker Jim Beverly.  "It's just not fit for any business to move in."  He has delivered mail to the Midtown Square property for nine years, and says for most of that time no mail has come at all since the building has been vacant.

Neighbors across the street from the property say it's an eyesore.  "Anything that we own we should take pride and take care of," said Dr. Rose Lepien, whose office is across the street.  "This is not a tribute to Lawton and what we're proud of, this is more a tribute to someone who really doesn't care what they own.  I would really appreciate some kind of decision on it."

As much as Lepien hates the property's appearance, she says it will be sad if Mansell does not comply with the judge's orders.  "There's been plenty of time to take action and make a difference," she said.  "I wish Mr. Manselll would do that."  Manselll has until next Friday to comply with the judges orders, but this time Aycock says that the demolition ball will roll in and tear down Midtown Square shopping center - no more chances this time.

Aycock told Manselll that the renovations must begin by January 12, 2009, and all renovations must be complete by August 1, 2009 - the same deadline Judge Aycock had ordered in October. 

Count on 7News to keep you updated.

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