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City of Warren Buys Adult Store Bookworld for $295,000 So It Can Close it Down

Warren, Michigan- Warren Mayor Mark Steenbergh didn’t mince words explaining one of his administration’s final acts: buying out Bookworld, an adult bookstore on Van Dyke, so the city could knock it down.

“This place has attracted perverts and weirdos for over 30 years,” he said. “It is located adjacent to one of the oldest neighborhoods in Warren. No one should have to live near this kind of use.” While most cities fight sex-oriented businesses only when new ones try to move in, Warren has been active in keeping them out and engineering ways to removing existing ones.

The City Council approved an ordinance last year that bars sex-oriented businesses from the downtown district, which stretches along Van Dyke north from the southern edge of the city. The purchase of Bookworld, which was completed late Thursday, is an unusually aggressive move for a city.

“This is a creative way to approach it,” said Bill Mathewson, general counsel at the Michigan Municipal League. “It’s commonplace for municipalities to restrict these types of businesses. This is not commonplace.”

The plan to buy Bookworld was something the city put together on its own. Joe Munem, a city spokesman, said the city had considered buying the property a few years ago, but the asking price was too high. In recent weeks, negotiations led to a new deal.

“There was no template,” Munem said. “This is something we kind of did on our own. I don’t know if this is something that’s going on a lot in other places.”

The city will pay $295,000 for the building. That includes $20,000 that binds the owner from opening a similar business in Warren. The city paid for some furniture, but Munem said the city did not pay for any of the inventory. The city used money captured by the Warren Tax Increment Finance Authority to make the purchase.

Bookworld isn’t the only business the city has bought out. The city paid $4.75 million for the dilapidated Majestic strip mall, also on Van Dyke, in 2004. The site was refurbished, and a satellite office of the Macomb County Health Department and a branch of the Michigan Family Independence Agency moved there.

“We’ve tried to take creative approaches,” Munem said. “The mayor has made this one of his priorities.”

Term limits are forcing out Steenbergh, who has been at the helm of Michigan’s third-biggest city for more than a decade.

After the bookstore is gone, the only sex-oriented business left in the city will be Jon Jon’s, an adult entertainment spot on Mound Road.

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