City manager hopeful padlocked Hamilton store will reopen next week

Hamilton officials showed up at Milillo Grocery at 1102 Ludlow Ave. on Wednesday to enforce those codes after it didn’t meet the latest in a series of requirements that owner Frank Milillo said cost him more than $10,000 to complete following his father’s 2015 death.

Milillo said the requirement of replacing a downstairs employee-only toilet with a modern bathroom was too expensive for him to complete. Instead, he proposed using the bathroom of an apartment toward the back of the store, one that could be accessed as easily as unlocking a door.

Leaving the apartment vacant would cost him $4,000 in rent a year but would give the business not only an employee-only bathroom on the main level, but also a storage area that he could more easily access.

Instead, Milillo said city officials told him he needed a building permit because he’d be changing the use for the space.

“A building permit to unlock a door?” he said. “That’s ridiculous. I’m not changing the use, I’m using the bathroom.”

When city officials said the business required an inspection, one that cost $50, no city official came out to the business to actually inspect the store, he said.

Another requirement stipulated by the city, according to Milillo, was producing architectural drawings for the space, drawings done to the city’s specification with nine specific points, and recommended Milillo go to Mike Dingledein of Community Design Alliance to get it done.

“This existing building has been here for 150 years that they have the plans to down at the city and always have,” he said. “This building didn’t grow here. It was built.”

Milillo said when it would cost him $3,500 to have Dingledein do the drawings, he contacted other architects, each of whom turned him down saying it would be too costly.

Told on Thursday morning of Milillo’s remarks, Hamilton City Manager Joshua Smith said he had spoken with the city’s Community Development Department, Milillo and his architect that afternoon.

“Architectural plans are being submitted today which will allow for a building permit to be approved tomorrow to construct the required 2-hour fire separation between the store and the upstairs apartment,” Smith said. “I am hopeful his contractor can get the work performed in a timely manner and, if so, look forward to his store being open next week to continue to serve the residents who rely upon it for convenient access to groceries.”

Residents outside Milillo Grocery agreed with its owners assessment of the multigenerational business, calling it a vital part of the neighborhood, especially to those with little to no means of reliable or regular transportation.

“This means something to a whole lot of people … and they’ve reached out to me on Facebook and I’m excited that they care,” he said. “I’m not surprised. I knew they did.”

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