The person seeking a certificate of appropriateness to demolish the structure and build in its place a residence and sculpture studio for himself is in contract to purchase the building from Phil Gellert. Gellert had converted the building, which probably started out as some kind of barn or storage facility, into low-income apartments. An article by Jamie Larson, which appeared in the Register-Star in 2011, identified this building as the property belonging to Gellert most often cited for code violations. The following is quoted from that article:
718-720 Union St., a converted barn, has received dozens of violations over the years. The building, which only has entrances to the three apartments off the rear alley, was cited numerous times in 2002 because the kitchen sloped to one side due to a severely water damaged support structure. The corner of the building was reportedly found to be held up with jacks.The prospective owner, who wants to demolish the building, told the HPC that there was no evidence that the building was there before 1940 and that the nature of the building didn't justify the effort required to repair and restore it. Code enforcement officer Craig Haigh shared this opinion: "They would have to destroy half the building to achieve code compliance."
Victor Mendolia, the realtor involved in the sale, asked the HPC to expedite the process because a contract is in place. The applicant told the HPC he did not want to purchase the property if he could not get a certificate of appropriateness to demolish it because he did not want to be "the custodian of a hazard." There are other issues involved. The applicant has no plans for structures he intends to build on the site, and Paragraph 169-8 B of the historic preservation law requires that demolition cannot be approved until the plans for new development have been approved:
Demolition shall be permitted only after the owner of the site has submitted and obtained design approval of his/her plans for new development under the provisions of this chapter, including an acceptable timetable and guarantees, which may include performance bonds for demolition and completion of the project. In no case shall the time between demolition and commencement of new construction or lot improvement exceed six months.The Historic Preservation Commission unanimously agreed to hold a public hearing on the request for demolition. The public hearing will take place on Friday, December 9, at 10 a.m., in City Hall.
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