News and Tribune

Floyd County

April 21, 2014

Clock ticking for plan to save New Albany building

Mayor: Structure needs a viable plan

NEW ALBANY — More than a change in ownership, Mayor Jeff Gahan said a viable plan to restore the former tavern building at 922 Culbertson Ave. will be needed before it’s safe from demolition.

“The truth of the matter is, it’s an unsafe structure,” Gahan said Monday, more than a week after the circa-1880 building was scheduled to be razed.

Wells Fargo bank owns the property, and had employed a private contractor to tear down the vacant building. Indiana Landmarks expressed an interest in saving the structure, and the final OK to remove the building hasn’t been given by the city.

Gahan said as of Monday, a deal hadn’t been reached for Wells Fargo to donate the building to the city, but New Albany remains interested in acquiring the lot.

Regardless, Gahan said that due to the condition of the building, the city could move forward with a demolition of the structure.

Within 60 days, the building could be razed if a solid plan isn’t put forth to solidify and restore the building.

Gahan said initial estimates received by the city put the renovation price for the building at $300,000. Some contractors and investors have toured the property.

“The ones we’ve been in contact with have been reluctant to make any commitment to try and save the structure,” Gahan said.

But there’s disagreement about how much it could cost to restore the building, as well as how sturdy the structure is.

Greg Sekula, southern regional director for Indiana Landmarks, said initial estimates he’s heard to refurbish the building have been between $100,000 and $150,000.

He also doesn’t feel the building poses any imminent danger to the neighborhood in terms of it collapsing.

“I would say that the building is no more dangerous than many of the buildings that are in the community and the neighborhood at this point,” Sekula said.

Peeling paint and damaged siding are the main issues with the structure, he added.

The ownership of the property needs to be cleared up before a proposal can be submitted, Sekula said.

“We feel very confident that someone can be found to address the structure,” he said.

The goal needs to be to repurpose the building, not to just find a new owner for the structure, or to let it sit for months or years without repair, Gahan said.

“The city of New Albany is committed to preserving structures whenever possible,” he said.

He used the Ekin Avenue Recreation Center — which will likely be approved for repair Tuesday by the New Albany Redevelopment Commission — as an example of utilizing public funds to salvage a building with a purpose.

The Ekin Avenue Recreation Center houses the local Boys and Girls Club, and could receive a new roof, gutters and HVAC units through a $200,000 repair effort.

The administration supports restoring the center because it’s serving a need in the community, Gahan said.

But there’s no plan for the building at 922 Culbertson Ave.

“At this point, we don’t want to say it’s not worthy of preserving, but it does present a safety hazard,” Gahan said.

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