Final Piece Of Former Board Of Education Building To Be Demolished
By STEVEN GOODE
April 11, 2010
Citing safety and maintenance issues, the city has decided to demolish what remains of the facade of the former board of education building that was to be featured in a new, $77 million public safety complex.
The decision has prompted some preservationists to question whether the city took proper steps to preserve what little remained of the historic building.
City officials said Friday that the remaining brick walls and mortar have suffered too much moisture damage from more than a century of exposure to the elements. The facade of the building, built in 1891, was to have served as the veneer of the new public safety complex now under construction on High Street just north of downtown.
But concerns about its stability arose after a portion collapsed in November, said Charles Crocini, special assistant to Mayor Eddie A. Perez.
Crocini said Friday that after the collapse of a portion of the east side of the building, officials inspected the remaining facade and determined that the center section should be demolished.
"Then we determined the remaining structure was in question," Crocini said. The decision to take down the rest of the facade was made in mid-March.
Over the years, moisture had soaked into the bricks and mortar at the core of the facade and weakened the structure, Crocini said.
"Why leave something that was going to cause issues and additional maintenance costs?" he said.
But some are questioning the methods of architects in the months leading to the first collapse, as well as steps taken afterward.
Greg Secord, chairman of the Hartford Preservation Commission, said that he wasn't speaking for the commission, but that he was disappointed with the city's intentions. He said that he was surprised at the extent of the demolition that occurred before the section of facade collapsed, and that he planned to ask for a second opinion about the walls' viability at the next preservation commission meeting scheduled for April 21.
Preservationist Bill Hosley, who has advocated saving historic North End structures for many years, also questioned whether the architects accelerated the decline of the facade when they removed the roof.
"How do you take the roof off of a building and leave it open for the winter?" Hosely asked.
Crocini said that removal of the roof was necessary because the load-bearing walls behind the facade needed to be removed to begin construction of the new building.
"The demolition is top-down," Crocini said, adding that the architects had anticipated having a new roof in place before winter. But once work was ordered stopped because of safety concerns with the facade, no construction was possible.
Demolition is expected to occur in the first two weeks of May, with new construction following. The new complex will be a replica of the old building, complete with unique features that are being saved, Crocini said.
David Panagore, the city's chief operating officer, said Friday that the architects tried their best to preserve the facade and that demolition was not the city's preferred alternative.
"For the past five months we've been trying to save those walls," he said. "We just couldn't do it."
Crocini said the issue will delay the project, pushing completion back to October or November 2011. The 150,000-square-foot complex was originally scheduled to be completed in April 2011.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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