It's been nearly five years since a downtown Knoxville landmark went up in flames leaving what many consider an eyesore in its place.
However since then, not much has changed at the McClung warehouse site on Jackson Avenue.
"It's time to get this done, and people need to step up and do their job," said Kim Trent, executive director for Knox Heritage.
The property has been on the organization's "Fragile 15" list for years, and Trent has been frustrated at the lack of progress.
"That is what you see from Interstate 40," she said. "You can't see our beautifully revitalized Market Square and all the activity going downtown. It's like a billboard for blight along I-40."
That so-called "billboard for blight" has been troubling for nearby developers, too, including Joe Petre, who's behind the Southeastern Glass building redevelopment.
"The projects that have redeveloped look good, but then there's an eyesore right in what's our front door to downtown," Petre said.
But the developer adds that he understands the process can take time.
In this case, it's been more than a decade.
McClung sits in the Jackson/Depot Redevelopment and Renewal Plan, adopted by city officials in December of 2001.
The Knoxville Community Development Corporation must approve all individual developers' plans to ensure they fall in line with the objectives of the overall redevelopment plan.
McClung's former owner, Mark Saroff, tried for years to have his plans approved but never succeeded.
Eventually, he went bankrupt, and the property now lies in the hands of a trustee, John Newton. Newton, who did not return a call or e-mail from 10News, is charged with selling the property to pay off the investors. As of now, the property still sits empty and unsold.
Meanwhile, a pending lawsuit has put a hitch in the plans.
Saroff sued KCDC in February 2009, claiming the agency damaged the property's value by threatening to condemn it.
A trial date has been set for February 2012.
In the meantime, the building has continued to sit mostly empty, except for the occasions when vagrants reportedly squat in the building.
Knoxville firefighters say vagrants were to blame for two recent fires that brought crews back to the site in recent weeks.
On Monday, Dec. 5, crews responded to a fire in a barrel. One week later, firefighters were back to put out a mattress that caught fire.
This, in my opinion, is a ticking time bomb," said D.J. Corcoran, a spokesman for KFD. "We were very lucky in 2007, but this building has the potential of being another McClung fire just like we had in 2007, it has that potential."
Corcoran said that when firefighters responded to the Dec. 5 fire, they determined the building was dangerous, so much so that department leaders have said they won't allow firefighters to enter the building if the structure itself catches fire again.
The close calls for four firefighters the night of the 2007 fire is a constant reminder of the danger the building can pose.
"We lost a lot of money and almost lives that night," Corcoran said.
City workers have boarded up windows and doors and put fencing around the property, but it hasn't kept out the vagrants. Plus, each time the fire crews have gone inside to put out the small fires in recent weeks, they've had to bust through the barriers, forcing city workers to put up the barriers once again.
Now, there are new concerns about the dangers of vagrants climbing up the scaffolding on the side of the building facing the railroad tracks.
David Brace, Deputy Director of Public Service for the city, said a new company will soon put up a taller fence with razor wire at the top as a new preventative, again at taxpayer expense.
"It's one of the most frustrating things that we've ever dealt with," Trent said. "It's in the hands of the bankruptcy trustee. John Newton has the power to get these things sold and get them in the hands of someone who'll secure them, redevelop them, and, until that happens, I wake up every day and expect to see a fire in those buildings again and more damage to surrounding properties and more liability for taxpayers."
Meanwhile, time is not on the side of potential developers, Petre said, adding that each day the property sits vacant makes its value deteriorate even further.
"The property has value as it is, but the redevelopment costs are the big stumbling block, and every day that that property goes unattended, it costs more to do, and that becomes a financing issue for the redevelopment, he said.