By DANIEL SUDDEATH
NEW ALBANY —
Shuttered and vacant, the North Annex has barely been touched for almost eight months.
Located at the front of Sam Peden Community Park off Grant Line Road, the building has been empty since the Floyd County Youth Shelter and solid waste office moved to the Pine View Government Center.
However this week, with the permission of the Floyd County Commissioners, two local preservationists toured the North Annex to gauge its condition.
They were pleased with what they found.
“We’re real upbeat about the condition of the building,” said Vic Megenity, vice president of the Floyd County Historical Society and one of the preservations who has pushed for a reuse of the North Annex since 2008.
Megenity and Stephen Pacciano, president of the Heritage Preservation League of New Albany-Floyd County, were granted permission by the commissioners on Tuesday to tour the facility.
They wanted to determine if the building incurred any further damage since being vacated, and they hope to formulate some options for repurposing the structure so that it isn’t demolished.
“We didn’t find any further deterioration that we could see at least from what it was two years ago,” Megenity said.
Pacciano credited the county for its willingness to allow them to tour the site.
“From the two-hour site evaluation I had Wednesday it is clear that the staff responsible for the shuttering of the structure took every responsible effort to adequately secure the building and button up the place for security and environmental considerations,” Pacciano said.
Of particular interest to the preservationists is the front portion of the North Annex, which was built in 1878.
Commissioner Chuck Freiberger joined Pacciano and Megenity on the tour. He said he’s “open minded” to saving at least the historic parts of the building.
“If someone wants to come in and remodel the building, I’m open to it,” he said. “I appreciate the sincerity and feelings that [Megenity and Pacciano] have for history.”
However, the future of the North Annex is still unclear.
“We have no definite thoughts about it at this time,” Commissioner Mark Seabrook said.
When the New Albany-Floyd County Parks Department split last year, the city stated in the closing agreement that it would help fund the razing of the North Annex if a municipal aquatic center could be built on the site.
Community Park, including the land the North Annex sits on, is owned by the county, but the city elected to construct the outdoor aquatic center off Daisy Lane instead.
In recent years Lowe’s has expressed interest in the property. Family Scholar House also proposed to incorporate the North Annex into a plan to add administrative offices and dormitories on a portion of the 16-acre site.
“With that large green space, it definitely has a campus-type feel to it,” Pacciano said.
But there’s no definitive proposal on the table currently, and all sides concede time is of the essence.
“It’s an eyesore,” Freiberger said. “We either need to do something with the building or we’re going to have to demolish it.”
There are varying ideas of how much it would cost to raze the structure. Some have said as much as $400,000, but Seabrook said this week the latest estimate he was told was around “$300,000 or less” to demolish the North Annex.
“The question is going to be, what is feasible? What is rational?,” Seabrook said. “What is the cost of demolition [versus] what is the cost of reconstruction or renovation?”
Freiberger stressed that he doesn’t want to “give away” the 16 acres of green space that accompany the North Annex.
Megenity said a repurposing of the site as an educational campus or for a similar use would allow the green space to be utilized instead of being disturbed.
“We’re anxious for the county commissioners to give some sort of green light, some sort of signal to move forward” with asking for new proposals for the North Annex, he said. “The clock is ticking, and we obviously don’t want the building to come down because it has so much history behind it.”