When Bradford City’s Historical Architectural Review Board met Monday, the main topic was the fate of 22 Main St.
While the back of the building will likely have to be removed, what will happen to the space and any remains has not been determined.
Until recently, the building was the home of Sun Set Bay Tanning Resort, but it was destroyed by fire on April 3. On Monday, building owner Denise French’s main concern was getting the damaged building taken down before someone was hurt.
The board was considering an application for a certificate of appropriateness to have Cummins Construction demolish the building for French.
Bradford engineer Curt Wallace has submitted a report recommending the building be demolished. On Monday, HARB talked about bringing in a second engineer to ensure city council is satisfied that HARB did due diligence with respect to looking at options to preserve the historic building.
“I think there’s a desire to make sure we do the right thing so we don’t have a hole on Main Street,” said Jeff Andrews of the HARB board and the Office of Economic and Community Development.
By the end of the meeting, HARB members hashed out a next step they felt weighed both safety concerns as well as the historical value of the 114-year-old building.
In a letter addressed to Mayor Tom Riel, Wallace described his observations, which had to be made from Main Street and the rear parking lot, as the building was not safe to enter. Aerial images provided information, too.
“Given the extent of the damage visible from a distance, I don’t feel the structure can practically be salvaged and should be removed in its entirety,” Wallace wrote.
In discussing at the meeting the extent of fire damage, Mike Cleveland, HARB board member and city building inspector/health director, said, “There is no doubt in my mind” that the mortar is damaged due to the heat of the fire.
He said he knows people have been emotional about the thought of taking down the building, and he feels city council and advocates to preserve the building for historic reasons will feel better with an additional opinion.
Andrews added that it “adds credibility to the board to do due diligence,” voicing his agreement with getting a second opinion.
Cleveland noted later in the meeting he is not expecting a second engineer to provide a different opinion from Wallace.
He suggested the city get a second engineer’s report, and if it concurs with Wallace’s report, they allow the demolition.
Cleveland suggested salvaging any “significant features,” if possible.
“Even if the facade is salvageable, who pays it?” wondered Sally Costik, HARB chair and curator of the Bradford Landmark Society. She wondered, too, who might acquire the property.
Nick Cummins of Cummins Construction shared concern of the safety issues and wondered, if the demolition was postponed, who would be liable if someone was hurt.
“Every day it’s standing there it’s a liability,” Cummins said.
Cleveland said, “I have no issue putting a timeline on a second report,” and added if the report is not complete by the deadline, they move forward based on the first engineering report.
The group talked about the next HARB meeting being on May 20, and it was suggested the second report be done by then.
Costik said nobody wants a hole on Main Street. “I would suggest tear it down, clean it up and put up sort of a wall,” where a mural can be painted.
In response to Costik’s suggestion, Andrews explained the problem with making that decision now is that information on the reuse of the building is missing from the application. He asked French if there is a plan for reuse.
French was not sure if she wanted to rebuilt or not and explained her biggest concern at the moment is that the building is a hazard.
She and Cummins were not pleased with the thought of waiting until after May 20 to start taking the building down.
Mayor Tom Riel spoke up, saying even if HARB agreed immediately to tear the building down, city council must vote on it first. He said the next council meeting is May 14, so as long as HARB has the information it needs by May 13, it can go before council.
Cleveland suggested a second engineering report be completed “no later May 13 or we will move forward with what we have.”
Riel said it was of particular concern whether the facade of the building is salvageable.
“There’s no question the rest of the building is beyond repair,” he said.
Cummins asked who would pay to retain the facade.
French wondered if HARB would want to purchase it and take on the responsibility for it.
While it would not be HARB purchasing a building like that, Riel said if anything it would be the city or a downtown organization.
Anita Dolan, community/economic development manager and Main Street manager, told French that if she is interested in selling, the city can help her pursue a buyer.
Andrews reiterated later in the meeting that it is not possible for Cummins and French to be granted a demolition permit before the May 14 council meeting.
French voiced again her concern of part of the building falling on a pedestrian or nearby vehicle.
Cleveland reassured her that HARB “will have something ready for council before they meet. We will not hold that up.”
In response to French’s concern for vehicles parked by the building, Riel said, “I can have the two parking spaces (in front of the building) blocked off in 20 minutes.”
Andrews said the second opinion would be sought from an engineer from the city’s engineering firm, and Cleveland asked French for permission for the engineer to look at the property.
“I’m not accepting liability if he gets hurt,” she said.
HARB ultimately did agree to have a second opinion completed by May 13, in time for city council’s May 14 meeting.