KCBD Investigates: The Omni Building - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

KCBD Investigates: The Omni Building

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The Omni building in downtown Lubbock is not just an eyesore; the area is now so dangerous that the intersection of 14th Street and Avenue K has been shut down for nearly a week.

Unfortunately, this is nothing new. In fact, the city has been dealing with this building's exterior for nearly a decade.

Now, the citizens of Lubbock are caught in the middle of a battle between the City and the building's owner, Hung Nguyen.

"It's getting to the point where we need to start taking some sort of action," said Lubbock Mayor Glen Robertson.

$5,000 worth of repairs were made in 2012 after massive chunks of stucco material were seen falling off the Omni building, but the health hazards remain...

Debris falling from eleven stories up could cause serious damage to people or vehicles passing below. The intersection has been shut down at least three different times..

In 2003, it was a similar issue with different materials from the Omni, posing the same kind of threat.

"The marble panels on the east and west towers were starting to loosen and fall off," said Steve O'Neal, chief building official for the City of Lubbock. O'Neal said the panels would heat up over time, curl lose from their support, and fall.

"Of course, marble panels weigh a considerable amount and when they fall from eleven stories up you have quite a hazard," O'Neal said.

The City's Code department presented a possible solution for the Omni building, stating that "the property be repaired, removed, or demolished within 90 days."

That recommendation is from August of 2010, from the Structural Standards Commission.

We wanted to know what happened and why wasn't this issue solved almost three years later.

"Sometime after the hearing, we received the order," said Stuart Walker, Code Administration Manager for the City of Lubbock. "Because we haven't seen significant progress or compliance we took it back in front of the Structural Standards Commission and we received an order for civil penalties."

The city slapped Nguyen with $235,000 worth of liens - liens that he still hasn't paid. City officials claim it's a complicated issue since the owner of the building lives outside of Lubbock and is failing to take action.

"We're continuing to push this property owner to make these needed repairs," Walker said.

It's an ongoing issue that the City has been fighting for years.

"I think the property changed five or six times until it changed to the current owner that we have," O'Neal said.

"The problem is there is no market in downtown Lubbock right now," said Mayor Robertson. "It would take $4 or $5 million dollars to just demo the building. There's still some asbestos issues on the top three floors."

Although issues regarding the Omni building have been on the list for the City Council's executive session for weeks, there has been no word of any progress made.

City officials say Nguyen has interested buyers lined up.

We will continue to investigate this issue and continue to ask city officials what can be done to keep the safety of Lubbock citizens as a top priority.

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