by Joni Astrup
The city of Elk River is seeking bids to demolish two downtown buildings at 716 and 720 Main St. after an inspection uncovered a structural problem in one of them.
The building at 716 Main St. houses the Elk River Area Arts Alliance. The 720 Main building is vacant.
Both buildings are owned by the Elk River Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA).
The HRA voted 3-0 Monday, Oct. 3, to get bids for the demolition of the buildings.
A review of the buildings by Loucks Associates and Buildings Consulting Group Inc. had found that the 720 Main building has “failed roof trusses,” according to a Sept. 27 memo from Loucks Associates to the city. “Because of this condition, we recommend that no one enter this building until further detailed investigation is complete and either the building is demolished or repaired. Snow and/or rain roof loads has the potential to collapse the roof of this building,” the memo stated.
The 720 Main building has been “red tagged,” which prohibits anyone from entering it.
The HRA had purchased the two buildings in 2006 with the intention of eventually demolishing them to provide for more parking spaces — surface or possible future deck parking.
Council Member and HRA Commissioner Paul Motin said it would be best to demolish the buildings as quickly as possible, which he said is in line with the long-term plan for the property. If the roof on 720 Main fails, he said it could do a lot of damage to 716 Main as well.
Dave Raymond, chair of the Arts Alliance, said they would like to be able to stay in the 716 Main building as long as possible. He said they are looking for new space and the vacant First National Bank building across the street is still an option, but not an immediate one as a significant amount of fundraising is needed.
The Arts Alliance has been occupying 716 Main since January 2008. The non-profit doesn’t pay rent, but does cover some costs such as utilities, insurance and some building upkeep.
Denny Chuba, an Arts Alliance board member and a builder with The Chuba Company, inspected the 720 Main building a couple years ago when the Arts Alliance was thinking about using it, and said the 716 Main building is more modern and in much better shape than 720 Main. He told the HRA that he believes the city could demolish 720 Main and save 716 Main.
Elk River Building Official Bob Ruprecht agreed that the two buildings are separate and could be taken down separately.
In the end, however, cost was an issue.
Loucks Associates estimates the cost of demolishing 720 Main at $95,000 to $120,000. Demolishing both 720 and 716 Main was estimated to cost just slightly more at $97,000 to $125,000. Professional services — engineering and architectural work — would cost an additional estimated $35,000.
Chuba took issue with those preliminary cost estimates. He thinks the estimate to take down 720 Main alone is high, and the estimate to take down both is low.
Motin said if the city kept 716 Main it would cost money if the city were to re-roof it, plus the city would be spending more money in the future to eventually demolish it.
The HRA agreed to solicit bids for the demolition of both buildings. Voting in favor were Motin and commissioners Larry Toth and Jean Lieser. Absent were Chair Stewart Wilson and Commissioner Louise Kuester.
While 716 and 720 Main are next door to Elk River Meats, Elk River Director of Economic Development Annie Deckert said the city has no intention of purchasing or demolishing the meat market.
HPC recommends restoring buildings
Earlier this year, the Elk River Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) recommended restoring the 716 and 720 Main St. buildings.
“The buildings add to the character of the downtown and if restored could add to the economy of the downtown by providing another location for a start-up business,” according to a May 19 memo from the HPC. “Also, by removing these two buildings, the integrity of the meat market which has been in operation since 1904 would change. Having the meat market as a stand-alone would detract from the character of downtown Elk River.”
If the city were to keep and repair both buildings, Loucks Associates estimates that it would cost an estimated $75,000 to $100,000. That breaks down like this: $30,000 to $40,000 to repair and/or rebuild the trusses, $40,000 to $50,000 to re-roof both buildings and $5,000 to $10,000 to rebuild the basement floor.