It appears the ongoing drama over the property at 27 Third St. NW in Faribault may be nearing a close.
At Monday’s meeting, members of Faribault’s Heritage Preservation committee tabled discussion on the City Council’s request to demolish the historic building as well as the building next door at 225 First Ave NW until consultants ISG release its full report on the status of the Third Street building. However, board members clearly had little appetite for repairing the dilapidated structure.
According to ISG’s preliminary report, it would cost nearly $3 million to bring the building back to usable shape. By comparison, estimates to demolish the building and complete the parking lot run around $400,000. Rice County assessors have valued the Third Street building at approximately $168,000.
The city purchased the two buildings for $238,930 in December, hoping to demolish them to make way for a new public parking lot across the street from City Hall and near other government buildings. In February, the Heritage Preservation Commission objected to the city’s proposal to allow the Third Street building to be razed, arguing that it holds significant historical value.
The Third Street building, originally known as Columbia Hall, was built around 1875. It once housed a public hall and stage that were often used for events, especially prior to the completion of the Faribault Opera House in 1893. Over the years, it has been used in many ways, including as an armory, implement dealer, hardware store, restaurant/saloon, and most recently hair salon. It has been heavily modified and suffered from lack of proper maintenance, although the upper floor retains historic, Italianate style windows, harkening back to its days as a public venue.
After reading the findings of the preliminary report, Heritage Preservation Commission members were less upset that the buildings are likely to be torn down than they were that the city had invested as much money as it had purchasing them in their current dilapidated state.
“People are upset about paying a person who’s abandoning a building $155,000 bonus after he abandons the building,” said board member Karl Vohs.
Board members also raised concerns that the Heritage Preservation Commission had not been properly consulted about the project, particularly during its early stages.
“They buy these buildings and then they come and say, ‘approve demolition of it.’ Well, that’s not really participation,” Vohs said.
Fellow board member Ron Dwyer concurred, “We seem to be an advisory group that doesn’t get listened to,” he lamented.
While the Commission can vote on whether or not to approve or deny a permit to destroy a building within the historic district, the council can ultimately override the Commission’s wishes with a simple majority vote. However, Council members have been eager to get the Heritage Preservation Commission on board with the decision to demolish the buildings.
The commission meets next on Sept.16. Members of the Committee plan on representing Faribault at the Preserve MN Conference in St. Cloud from Sept. 11-13.