As the article in last week’s arts and entertainment section of the Star News made clear, the Housing and Redevelopment Authority of Elk River has begun the process to tear down their buildings on Main Street. As a result, the Elk River Area Arts Alliance, which has occupied the building at 716 Main St. for three years, has been given notice to vacate and has one month to find a new location and move out. This comes just at the start of our most profitable two months of the year.
The Arts Alliance Board of Directors met to discuss this sudden change in our status downtown and would like the community to hear our view of the situation.
The board members feel that the HRA decision, made when two of the five members were not available to offer their input, is not in the best interests of the downtown community for several reasons. The reason given for demolishing the buildings is that two of the roof trusses in the unoccupied building at 720 Main St. have failed and the roof is in danger of collapse under a heavy snow load. Further, if the roof were to collapse, it may cause extensive damage to the buildings on either side, affecting the Elk River Meats and the Arts Alliance.
Paul Motin argued that it would be too expensive to try to take just the middle building down due to the extra cost of labor to stabilize the walls of both the adjoining buildings. Motin further reasoned that it would be easier to just take both 720 and 716 Main down at the same time, rather than coming back at a later time and incurring additional cost to remove the building which houses the Arts Alliance. The cost of demolition was estimated to be about $125,000. Members of the Arts Alliance board also feel the numbers the HRA based their decision on were not realistic. In addition, the cost of a new roof for the Arts Alliance building is not needed; patching to control the leaks that exist, even without a guarantee, would be enough for the time frame being considered.
The Arts Alliance feels that if cost is an issue, then the best course of action would be to brace up the two trusses that have failed so they will handle the expected loads. This would be a much less costly solution and would allow the Arts Alliance, a vibrant business which draws people into the downtown, the time needed to find a new permanent location.
Extra parking is not currently needed for the businesses that are downtown now, according to studies commissioned by the city. If the city were to wait until the owner of Elk River Meats feels the time is right to sell or close down, then all three buildings could be torn down without the need and extra cost of saving any walls.
The board of the Arts Alliance asks the HRA to have their engineer include the cost of stabilizing the parts of the roof that are failing so they can have all the options to consider before forcing out a viable business and creating another empty hole in the face of the downtown business district. —David Raymond, chairman, Elk River Area Arts Alliance Board of Directors