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Imagine a bombed-out brick building from "Black Hawk Down," but with pink interior walls courtesy of Blue Boutique.
The scene gets more surreal next door, where phallic cookies and boobie cakes engross customers at an "erotic" bakery.
But the shared wall between the structures is far from funky or funny for a mix of Sugar House tenants who say developer Craig Mecham is effectively holding them hostage. What's more, Mecham concedes the foundering economy has him "nervous," hinting his plans to make over the eclectic strip could be on hold.
In January, Mecham tore down most of the so-called Granite Block corner straddling 2100 South and Highland Drive for a planned retail and residential development. The demolition was supposed to be done by now so the construction zone could be layered in fresh landscaping for spring.
But the backhoes shut down when workers realized what's left of the Blue Boutique is just inches from the abutting bakery building.
Inside the bakery - which is not part of the demolition - the damage has taken a toll. A storage-room wall is cracked, bubbled with mold and streaked by water stains that resemble urine. The owner's interior-design supplies - now ruined - are strewn across the debris pile out back. And access to garbage was made a muddy mess after the shops' parking strip was jackhammered.
"They seemed to come and start tearing things down without giving much thought to it," said Ben Dyches, manager of (M)adam & (St)eve: An Erotic Bakery. "I had a feeling this was not going to work out."
Mecham insists his title allows him to tear out the mutual wall, but says he is trying to be nice - a good neighbor.
"We tried to buy the building, but I don't think [the owners] are interested in selling."
He's right, acknowledges Jim Johnson, managing member of Rockwood Investment LLC, which owns the buildings directly west of the Mecham property.
Johnson says the demolition "has caused real problems," but makes it clear he wants to work with Mecham to solve the stalemate.
"It's kind of like taking a puzzle apart," he said. "We've always known we're neighbors. They had it all surveyed. The solution is doing it correctly with the right engineering.
"We just want to make sure our building is taken care of."
Meantime, merchants say the standoff has siphoned business and posed safety perils.
"People think we're closed or we're being torn down," says Laurie Bray, whose photography business in the adjacent Rockwood Art Studios has plummeted 50 percent since the demolition. "It's going to be a travesty if this sits here for two years."
Amy Barry, a nearby Sugar House resident, also is upset.
She argues a demolition of this magnitude should not have been approved without showing it can be done safely. Both Barry and Bray worry the piles of broken glass, splintered wood, and barbed bricks have become a hazard for kids who easily can access the site. Indeed, skateboarders and vagrants frequently are spotted since a fence recently was stolen.
"Now we have this gaping hole," Barry said. "Who knows when this demo is going to be done?"
Multiple calls to the city's planning and building officials were not returned. The voice mail for one permitting boss has been "full" since last fall.
Mecham has yet to submit a development plan to the city, but he maintains the project is not stalled - "I know people perceive it to be that way, but it's not," he said - adding that financing "is not holding this up."
At the same time, the developer concedes the slowdown in the commercial real-estate market is "a scary situation," and he worries about his timing.
"Everything is softening," Mecham said. "It makes us nervous, to be quite honest."
* LESLEY MITCHELL contributed to this story.