Officials discuss risks from crumbling building

SALEM – The Economic Development Committee of city council listened to an update Tuesday on several topics, including development opportunities on the east and north ends of the city and the status of the TanFastic/Butler buildings.

Larry Kosiba, executive director of the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center, presented the report, noting “a lot of the activity is ongoing.”

Most of the discussion dealt with possible options for the city concerning what to do about the crumbling TanFastic structure on State Street in the downtown where barricades have been blocking both the sidewalk and the street in front of that building and the Butler museum since last July due to safety concerns from falling bricks.

“It seems like the two parties are not moving too quickly on this…people are getting upset,” Councilman Dave Nestic said.

Nestic chairs the committee and said the city needs to get a better handle on the costs, such as what the city would have to pay to get a cost analysis for the various options of rehabbing the building or demolishing the building and what the city can do legally.

The building has been a sore spot for the city for several years, with the fire department condemning the building and the city taking legal action in an effort to force the owners of the TanFastic building to either fix it or tear it down.

The museum building is also part of the mix because bricks from TanFastic caused damage at the museum, which shares a wall with the TanFastic building, further complicating matters. The court action, which now includes the Butler building, remains pending, with a trial set for November.

Kosiba explained the city and the owners of the Butler building asked him to put together a paper looking at various scenarios and funding options, mapping out a way to proceed, such as ownership by a non-profit entity, such as a reconstituted Community Improvement Corporation which could have access to funding that a private individual could not.

He said that he and Mayor John Berlin met with representatives of Shaw Engineering, which also made a presentation to the CIC revitalization committee, concerning the building. During a basic visual external inspection of the structure, a representative told them the top west portion appears to be leaning or tilting towards State Street.

A $5,000 proposal was provided to the city on Monday regarding an inspection to evaluate the structural integrity of the building inside and out, with Berlin questioning where the money would come from.

There was also talk about placing scaffolding against the building in an effort for further protection, especially with the Salem Super Cruise coming in June, with questions raised on who would pay for that.

Berlin said he didn’t think the owners would be opposed to the city taking over the building and paying for taking it down, but a rough of estimate of $60,000 to demolish it would not take into account any costs associated with asbestos remediation, which can be costly, or exposing a wall to another building which would create another problem. He said he was told some type of mesh should be put up on the building to keep stuff from falling into the street, but then there’s the question of who pays for that.

The city does not own the building.

The CIC could serve as a vehicle for purchasing and renovating structures, but Kosiba said they’re trying to understand all the requirements involved and what funding they could access, such as a Rural Business Enterprise Grant. Officials are in the process of reviving the CIC, which has been dormant.

In other areas, Kosiba discussed the Tax Incremental Financing zones on the north side of the city and the east side of the city.

On the north side, he said there’s been talk with a Pennsylvania investment group and other outside developers for a multi-phase development with a convenience store, grocery store, two hotels, restaurants and condominiums, but part of the issue is negotiating acceptable purchase/development terms for all parties.

On the east side, there are multiple development opportunities being discussed, with at least four hotels, restaurants and the ongoing apartment project off of Pershing Street. He said a meeting was planned this weekend with a development group from Montana.

When asked about the Holiday Inn Express development, he said they’ve tried multiple avenues to try to resolve the situation, which has been complicated by a deed restriction off of Cunningham Road near Home Depot. He said they’ve tried looking for alternative locations in the same area.

Mary Ann Greier can be reached at