Published May 03. 2013 11:00AM Updated May 03. 2013 11:45PM
Norwich — It would cost the city $575,000 to demolish the historic Reid & Hughes building and nearly $800,000 to erect steel supports and save the unique cast iron facade only in the split-level Main Street building.
City officials on Friday released a new engineering report by CLA Engineers Inc. giving cost estimates for completely demolishing the building, removing and storing the facade for possible future use, or supporting the facade in place while tearing down the structure behind it.
City officials asked for the report after negotiations with the only developer who submitted plans for the building broke down several weeks ago. Mayor Peter Nystrom called the $7.1 million heavily subsidized restoration plan by Becker and Becker Associates too one-sided with public money — city grants and tax breaks, state and federal affordable housing funding and federal historic restoration tax credits — to be acceptable.
City Historian Dale Plummer recently revived the Norwich Heritage Trust, merging the organization with Norwich Landmarks in anticipation of a battle to save the Reid & Hughes building.
Plummer, president of the heritage trust, immediately objected to any proposal to tear down the building or to preserve only the façade. He met Friday with officials at the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation to update the organization on the Reid & Hughes.
Plummer said a licensed roofing contractor has offered to patch holes in the lower-level roof on the building with volunteer labor. He estimated the project would cost about $3,000 and could buy several years of time for the city to decide the future of the building.
Plummer hopes the Becker proposal is not dead but said the city also could decide to put out a new request for development proposals as the economy improves.
"What do they get if they tear it down?" Plummer said. "They get nothing. They destroy the possibility of a $1.4 million tax credit, and you don't get a building with tenants in it, both residential and retail. And the number of parking places is minimal."
The Norwich Public Works Department paid for the CLA report, which cost $9,800.
In the report, CLA reviewed four options for demolishing the Reid & Hughes and preserving the facade. Complete demolition with no preservation would take about five weeks and cost about $574,000, including filling in the foundation hole and landscaping. "Selective demolition" by deconstructing the facade and placing it in storage would add $62,000 and take 11 weeks.
"Initially, it is not the most costly option, but future reconstruction would be labor intensive," the report said, "possibly making it the most expensive choice for property improvement."
The remaining two options call for tearing down the building and shoring up the facade. Five temporary steel columns could support the facade and be left in place for future construction. This option would cost $797,000.
Instead of steel columns, a reinforced concrete wall also could be built behind the facade, with or without gaps for the windows, to double the thickness of the facade wall, costing $770,000.