(Talk of the Town photos by Jennifer Zartman Romano)
Above, late this morning results of the ongoing demolition work at 213 West Van Buren Street in downtown Columbia City could be seen as a crack appeared on the building bearing the name "Alice." At right, photographs show the Columbia City Redevelopment Commission's current project -- the demolition of the Alice Building. Whitley County contractor Kim Reiff & Sons were selected by the commission to conduct the work which is expected to be completed by late June.
By Jennifer Zartman Romano
Progress is moving forward as quickly as Alice's walls are crumbling.
The Alice building in downtown Columbia City, the former home of the old Due's Restaurant at 213 West Van Buren Street, is being demolished this week -- one of several projects in the works under the direction of the Columbia City Redevelopment Commission.
Columbia City councilman Ben Romine, who serves on the commission, reported last week that the deed to the building had been received by the commission and that demolition on the aging, leaning structure would begin immediately. Late last year, following evaluations by general contractors and real estate specialists, it was determined the building's integrity was severely compromised and that it should be torn down.
Today, demolition is, indeed, underway. Barricades are surrounding the site. Drivers and pedestrians are being routed around the area for safety. This morning, it was clear that significant progress had already been made on the upper story of the building with daylight visible through the empty, paneless windows. Numerous onlookers watched the project's progress from neighboring apartments and along the sidewalks.
Bids for demolition were unsealed by the Redevelopment Commission last Tuesday afternoon. The demolition bid in the amount of $56,000 was awarded to Kim Reiff & Sons.
As Romine talked about the project with the Columbia City Common Council last Tuesday evening, he requested that the city appropriate approximately $1600 to cover acquisition costs associated with the property transaction. The Redevelopment Commission was given the deed to the building by the building's owner, located in Canada, but legal costs were accrued in the process. The Council unanimously approved the use of city funds to reimburse the Redevelopment Commission for those costs.
Jeff Walker, Columbia City's community development director, noted that the contractor intends to have the building torn down and grass planted on the site by Old Settler's Days in late June.
Columbia City Mayor Ryan Daniel indicated to the Columbia City Board of Works that he was not as convinced the project would be completed by then, stating, "I'll believe it when I see it."
It is not yet clear what future plans might be for the site, but officials have stated concerns that they want a good future use for the space because of it's location in the center of the historic downtown.