A worker wets down the burned remains of the Metropolitan Apartments to prevent asbestos from going airborne as the complex is demolished Tuesday. The site will be cleared within 20 days, Assistant City Attorney Dean Roggia said.

Staff photo— Jerry Larson

The city of Waco is wasting no time getting the Metropolitan Apartments demolished after the North Waco eyesore burned last week.

A contractor Tuesday began razing the 48-unit complex on North 15th Street, and the site will be scraped clean within 20 days, Assistant City Attorney Dean Roggia said.

The city Thursday got state permission to proceed with the demolition on an emergency basis, bypassing the formal bidding process, which can take about a month.

Empire Environmental of Balch Springs got the $111,593 demolition contract, agreeing to remove the asbestos-contaminated waste and haul it to an approved landfill. The company will remove the slab foundations and plant grass in their place.

A fire that is being investigated as arson destroyed the long-abandoned complex early Thursday, just hours before the city was to have opened bids for a court-ordered demolition. City officials originally expected the work to cost up to $250,000.

Sammy Smith, a Brook Oaks Neighborhood Association leader who lives across North 15th Street, commended the city for its work in the past few days.

“The community is elated,” he said. “This is long overdue. We’ve spent 20 years looking at this eyesore and seeing it going through the process of code enforcement. . . . One big hazard has been 
eliminated, but we still have other structures on the ground that are not being cleaned up.”

The apartments have been tagged as unsafe since 2000, but the city’s legal efforts to get the owners to clean them up have been unsuccessful.

The city won a court order in February requiring owners Robert and Leola Mabe, of Los 
Altos, Calif., to demolish the apartments, but they had taken no action by the 
April deadline.

The property still belongs to the Mabes, but the city is authorized to raze the buildings and bill the owners, along with civil
penalties. If the owners fail to pay the costs, the city can put a lien on the property and move to take it through foreclosure.

Asbestos cleanup

City code enforcement official Robert Pirelo said the cleanup crew can’t do standard asbestos abatement because the building burned. But Empire Environmental is keeping the materials wet to prevent hazardous asbestos fibers from blowing into the air, and the firm is monitoring the site for air quality.