Demolition coming for White Lakes mall, City of Topeka says

Local News

The Topeka Fire Department battles an arson fire at the White Lakes mall in December 2020. (KSNT Photo/Mark Feuerborn)

TOPEKA (KSNT) – After standing in Topeka for 57 years, the White Lakes mall building is now set to be destroyed, a city spokeswoman confirmed Thursday afternoon.

The City of Topeka told KSNT News that the White Lakes mall, or White Lakes Center as it was formally named, has been marked an “unsafe structure.” The city has not taken any action regarding the abandoned property until now, because it couldn’t order a demolition until the building met certain conditions.

“We can order a demolition but only if the building is hazardous,” spokeswoman Molly Hadfield said in January 2021.

Now that it has been marked unsafe, the city has issued a demolition order. However, it could be some time before crews carry out destroying the mall building.

“There is still a long process to go through before the demolition happens,” Hadfield said.

Prior to marking the White Lakes mall unsafe, a Dec. 29, 2020 fire erupted inside the building causing $100,000 in damage. The City of Topeka confirmed it condemned the White Lakes mall in August 2020, which meant the Topeka Fire Department had to avoid going into the building for its firefighters’ safety. Instead, they tried to put out the mall’s interior fire from the roof.

Fire investigators later said three teens started the fire inside the old mall, and authorities arrested and charged Joel Sink, 18, and two minors with:

  • Arson
  • Criminal Damage to Property
  • Criminal Trespassing

A 2020 estimate before the fire put the White Lakes Center property value at $811,000. After the fire, the Shawnee County Appraiser’s Office valued the property at $743,620, the same as its land value, marking the building itself worthless.

The city’s Code Compliance division issued citations in the past before the city condemned the White Lakes Center on Aug. 24, 2020, according to Hadfield. The condemnation order on White Lakes didn’t require the demolition of the building, and instead tried to get the owner to fix problems with the property before anyone could go inside or home businesses there.

“There have been multiple inquiries over the years to purchase and rehab the building. The city cannot force the owner to sell the property. The reinvestment in the property is the preferred end result. The City of Topeka continues to work with the owner and potential buyers to get the property rehabilitated, or sold to a different owner who will demolish or rehabilitate the building.”

Molly Hadfield, City of Topeka

White Lakes Center officially opened Oct. 15, 1964, according to Abandoned Kansas. Business went on in the mall for 43 years before it lost its last tenants in 2007, and current owner KDL, Inc. bought it in 2009. Mainline Printing remains as the last company there, and uses a sectioned-off part of the property.

The company told KSNT News after the fire that it experienced some flooding, but it wasn’t seriously damaged during the incident.

“The Topeka Fire Department was on the ball, right away they had seemingly every truck in their power over here containing the blaze,” said Mainline COO John Parker Jr. “Through their hard work, really never made it within 200 feet of our facility, so we’re very grateful for their efforts today.”

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