The blacksmith shop is on its way to being demolished.
After months of litigation, the city’s Redevelopment Authority has reached a settlement with Earth Construction, the company it had hired last year to demolish most of the Highway Trailer complex, which sits on a key area of the city’s riverfront redevelopment area. Its contract required it to leave the blacksmith shop untouched for its historical value, but a storm last October tore up part of a wall, leaving the building unstable.
RDA chair Roger Springman explained that the RDA agreed to abide by the original terms of the agreement, which includes a provision for razing the blacksmith shop along with the rest of the complex.
Springman shared during Wednesday’s meeting that Earth has until Dec. 31 to demolish the building, and it does not plan to preserve any of the bricks from the building, Springman said.
“They’re going to use machines and dump it in a pile, which means there’s going to be a lot of broken bricks,” he said. “They would not accept any other way to do it,” he added, stating that it’s going to be “quick in and out work.”
A developer the RDA is considering working with has proposed using bricks from the building in a new building that would pay homage to the 114-year-old structure, which has ties to the city’s founding trailer-building industry. But preserving the bricks requires a more careful, hands-on method that would stack them to be reused. The bricks are soft, which means they will break even more easily, Springman said.
The RDA has until Oct. 15 to find a different company that could demolish the building and preserve the bricks, but under the settlement, it would have to abide by the $40,000 amount that Earth had agreed to, Springman explained. Because of the dollar limitation, the city would have to bid the demolition for other contractors, and it’s unlikely the turnaround would be in time to meet that deadline.
The RDA could also ask the developer interested in the riverfront redevelopment project – Curtis Brink – if he is interested in taking on the demolition and also preserving the bricks.
Even if the RDA were to find another contractor by Oct. 15, Earth could request demolition sooner. It would need to meet with the city to obtain a permit before the demolition could occur, and that pre-demo meeting has not yet been scheduled.
Springman said Earth had told the city it would be unable to perform the work before that time.
The legal debate started late last year after an October windstorm knocked out a portion of the building, and the two entities had been at odds over who should pay for it.
Earth Construction felt it had satisfied the requirements of its contract with the RDA, but the commission felt the company failed to maintain the building, which was contractually obligated to be protected during the demolition of the Highway Trailer complex.
The RDA had voted the year before to demolish the entire Highway Trailer complex, but a public outcry led to a compromise to leave just the one building standing, with a goal of historic restoration.