A building that once housed an Italian restaurant, deemed unsafe by the Town of Hilton Head Island, has been demolished.
Workers began tearing down the dilapidated building at 15 Park Lane this week after a Charleston bank bought it out of foreclosure in May.
The town's Construction Board of Adjustment & Appeals voted unanimously in February to give the building's previous owner, Lu-Ying Tu Li, until early June to either make the building safe or tear it down.
Li -- listed as Li Lu Ting Tu on Beaufort County property records -- bought the 9,200-square-foot building that was once the Pasta Garden in 2007 for about $1.6 million from Carolina First Bank.
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She told The Island Packet in February she bought it with the intention of converting it to a Japanese restaurant, but was unable to because of restrictions under the town's land management ordinance.
"It was very complicated, and after that the economy turned and I lost money and could no longer meet payments on the building," Li said.
She said the building sat vacant for about four years -- with no apparent maintenance, according to the town -- despite efforts to sell the property.
CresCom Bank of Charleston purchased the property May 18 for $725,000 in a foreclosure sale, according to county property records.
Attempts Thursday to reach an attorney representing the bank were unsuccessful.
The bank chose to the demolish the building, at a cost of $18,800, rather than make costlier repairs, in the hopes of selling the property at a higher mark-up, town building official Bob Klein said.
Klein showed photos during the Feb. 28 public hearing that revealed holes in the roof, overgrown vegetation, drywall that had fallen from the ceiling, broken windows, mold and rotted wood.
Rodents and vandals also had infiltrated the building, creating a public-health risk and fire hazard, he said.
Neighboring businesses say they're relieved to see the building finally come down.
"It was too far gone to be renovated," Park Lane Hotel general manager Steve Hamberg said Thursday. "Being right in front of us, it may have deterred people from coming to us. Now that its down, it helps us for sure."
The bank also assumes outstanding taxes owed on the property, which it must pay by October or lose ownership to a private investor who bid $350,000 on the property at a county tax sale.
Li said she had offers from Walgreens and Parkers gas, but town zoning derailed those deals. The property is zoned for office and institutional use, which does not allow a stand-alone, drive-through pharmacy, gas station or convenience stores. Uses that are allowed include hospitals, day cares, restaurants, homes, apartments, churches, parks, banks and offices.