Ice house options

This just doesn’t make sense unless you a cynical enough to believe that the city is pushing for bus parking over the preservation of the Colonial Ice House.

The city has an appraisal for our property fronting East Market Street that came in at $290k.  According to city engineering/inspections head Butch Simmons, the city has received only two offers for the property so far.  The first, at $65k, was from someone who was going to preserve the structure.  The second, at $150k, was from someone who just wanted the land under the old building. Both were rejected.

The first was deemed too low, the second was rejected because, according to Simmons, “We were trying to preserve the building.”  But that may not be possible if, as Simmons portends, “the council expects the city to pay close to appraised value when acquiring property and to get the same when selling city property.”

I’m not sure what we paid for the property, but it seems it was based on a faulty appraisal.  Whomever compiled it obviously didn’t notice the delamination of some of the building’s brick veneer, nor did they take into account the high probability that the site was contaminated with coal residue as explained it Jim Schlosser’s N&R article. 

The former undersight is understandable because it may not have been obvious.  The second… not so much.  It is common knowledge that coal was sold out of that building for decades and it also common knowledge that cleaning up such contamination is expensive.

In light of the above costly revelations about its property, the city needs to have that appraisal updated. 

In other words, it may now be found that the historic structure, the actual brick and mortar, has zero ‘real’ value.  It is highly likely that the only asset we actually own is the land under the building as reflected in previous offers.

If that is the case, and if our city council is truly committed to the preservation of Greensboro’s historic structures, we should sell the property for a reasonable “land only” price with the stipulation and covenant that the building be preserved.  With such a deflated, but real world, price, the economics of restoration and preservation will likely be quite attractive to a number of developers.

At this point, the options for our City Council concerning the Ice House are pretty clear: will it be preservation or bus parking?

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8 Comments

  1. David Wharton
    Posted August 23, 2006 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    “if our city council is truly committed to the preservation of Greensboro’s historic structures …”

    That’s the big “if,” isn’t it? To their credit, council put the World War Memorial Stadium bond on the referendum. But some members of council also asked staff to look into eliminating the historic preservation program entirely.

    My read is that support for preservation on council is (in general) tepid, and the reason for that is that public support for preservation in Greensboro is also generally tepid.

    Cites that are really into preservation (like Lexington VA or Greeneville SC) generally DO sell their historic properties for land-value only, expecting that they will reap benefits down the road in increased tax revenue and civic pride. It’s kind of like giving tax breaks to developers — as council did recently for Roy Carroll and the Wachovia tower.

  2. Sandy Carmany
    Posted August 23, 2006 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    David,

    It was specifically stated when this item was discussed in the briefing session that the land was valued at $290,000 by the independent appraiser with “zero’ assigned as the monetary value of the building itself.

  3. Tom Phillips
    Posted August 23, 2006 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    David W. Other than Mike Barber who were the “some councilmembers” that wanted to do away with the historic preservation program?

  4. Posted August 24, 2006 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    Thanks Sandy (and hello Tom),

    I guess I am just really out of touch with the going price of CBD acreage, especially right next to a N&S mainline.

    I assume, then, that we paid right around $290k for the property. True? Also, do either of you know if the appraisal mentioned anything about coal residue and its dilatory effect on the property’s resale? Afterall, the sign that still hangs on the building SAYS that coal was sold on the property.

    It just seems that something is out of whack here… doesn’t it to you? With downtown property being such a hot commodity these days, why are developers, (except for the lowball two mentioned above) staying away in droves?

  5. Sandy Carmany
    Posted August 24, 2006 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    David,
    I have asked city staff for the answers to the questions you asked and will share them as soon as I get them. I do remember that the city purchased the entire tract of land on which the Ice House sits, not just the building itself. Demolition of the building at that time was delayed to give preservationists, developers, etc. to make a viable offer and rescue the building.

  6. Sandy Carmany
    Posted August 24, 2006 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    David,

    I’m back already with a PROMPT response from Butch Simmons to my inquiry. Please pardon the lengthy explanation.

    The city paid $300,000 back in 2003 for the entire tract of land in that area to expand the adjacent GTA facility, of which the Ice House was one portion. In response to community concerns, the Ice House was not demolished at that time. The city spent approximately $10,000 to stabilize the building, clear out the junk inside it, and secure it. There was a pending $17,000+ contract to reroof the building and replace the back wall of the structure when the latest problem was discovered.

    The building has been shown to a dozen+ developers, both local and out-ot-town, who expressed interest, but most walked away after touring the building and seeing its poor condition. That building is basically a “shell” and now with the discovery of the latest problem, we know that the “shell” has serious structural problems. That problem is that the brick facade is merely a veneer and the ties securing that veneer to the rest of the building have failed. The planned streetscape improvements on that section of East Market Street requires the removal and replacement of the exisiting sidewalk, and it was evident the jackhammer vibrations would bring that brikc veneer crashing down. Preliminary estimates to secure the brick veneer in the $200,000-300,000 range.

    You correctly noted that the previously known problem on the property was a plume of coal contamination. Because of that environmental problem, this site would not qualify for residential development. Any other development on the property would require capping this plume of contamination. The original city plan to put a parking lot there would have dealt with the contamination satisfactorily. If demolition does take place, the HEAT buses will likely be parked there although we currently have adequate arrangements for them in another location.

    In May 2006 McNairy & Associates, an experienced commerical property appraiser, set the appraised value of the Ice House property (.89 acres) at $290,000 with a zero value for the building itself and NOT taking the contamination into account. Please note how much downtown property values have skyrocketed during the three-year time period! Demolition costs for the building were estimated at $75,000 — Butch thinks that is too high and are more in the $34,000-37,000 range. When the coal contamination is taken into consideration, the land is valued at $160,000. The city has received one offer of $150,000 for the property WITH THE BUILDING DEMOLISHED; that offer was rejected because council’s directive at that time was to preserve the building.

    A detailed letter has been sent to Preservation Greensboro describing the situation. Unless an angel with deep pockets makes a quick appearance, this building is likely to be demolished. That’s where we are at this point.

  7. David Wharton
    Posted August 27, 2006 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Sandy, thank you very much for the detailed information. I wrote too hastily when I evaluated the council’s work in preservation. The council has done a lot of good work in this area, not least The Depot, which I love.

    Tom, I had heard informally that the request to look at eliminating the historic district program had come from “members of council.” I’m glad to know now that it was just one member.

    I suppose what I miss here in Greensboro is the kind of vocal support for preservation that I heard from Greenville’s mayor Knox White, who used preservation as a political rallying point for that town’s downtown revitalization. He said to the Action Greensboro group that visited there, “Don’t doubt the power of preservation” to change people’s perceptions about their city.

    But I understand that Greensboro isn’t Greenville.

    I do find it frustrating, however, that all the local newspapers invariably describe the historic district Design Guidelines as “rigid,” but never mention that the deed restrictions and restrictive covenants of most modern homeowners’ associations are often just as rigid — in some ways more so — without giving property owners the benefit of a public review that they get in the the historic districts.

  8. Ann Stringfield
    Posted August 28, 2006 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Was it Councilperson Mike Barber who suggested the Historic District program be terminated?

    If yes, that would be the same Mike Barber who owns property in the College Hill neighborhood and was
    caught having made multiple significant exterior modifications to his property without getting a Historic
    District Certificate of Appropriateness (CoA) approval prior to the significant modifications (such as changing windows, building a large elevated concrete driveway, and destroying a large magnolia tree by paving all
    around the tree?)

    Is this the same Mike Barber who suggested he didn’t understand our local Historic District Guidelines,
    yet he was able to pass the Bar exam and routinely represents clients in courts of law?

    Is this the same Mike Barber that refused to allow County Commissioners to hear an official offer for
    half-a-million dollars more for sale of the the County property at Bellemeade/Eugene/Spring/Lindsay
    streets, preferring a half-million dollar lesser sale price?

    Is this the same Mike Barber that when asked how he could not allow a larger monetary offer to be
    presented on the night of the Bellemeade purchase vote bellowed his reply “Because I’m the Chairman!”

    Just wondering if Councilperson Mike Barber was the Council member who suggested the Historic District program be evaluated for termination. If not him, who?

4 Trackbacks

  1. [...] Following my post about the pending demolition of this historic building, Councilwoman Carmany contacted city staff for the skinny. She reported her findings over at her place and cross-posted the information in my comments section as well. She tells us that the city’s head of inspections and engineering, Butch Simmons, had grave news… “…the ties securing that veneer to the rest of the building have failed. The planned streetscape improvements on that section of East Market Street requires the removal and replacement of the existing sidewalk, and it was evident the jackhammer vibrations would bring that brick veneer crashing down. Preliminary estimates to secure the brick veneer in the $200,000-300,000 range.” [...]

  2. By Hogg’s Blog » on September 2, 2006 at 8:22 pm

    [...] Following my post about the pending demolition of this historic building, Councilwoman Carmany contacted city staff for the skinny.  She reported her findings over at her place and cross posted some information in my comments section as well.  She tells us that the city’s head of inspections and engineering, Butch Simmons, had grave news… “…the ties securing that veneer to the rest of the building have failed. The planned streetscape improvements on that section of East Market Street requires the removal and replacement of the exisiting sidewalk, and it was evident the jackhammer vibrations would bring that brick veneer crashing down. Preliminary estimates to secure the brick veneer in the $200,000-300,000 range.” [...]

  3. By Hogg’s Blog » on September 2, 2006 at 8:22 pm

    [...] Following my post about the pending demolition of this historic building, Councilwoman Carmany contacted city staff for the skinny.  She reported her findings over at her place and cross posted some information in my comments section as well.  She tells us that the city’s head of inspections and engineering, Butch Simmons, had grave news… “…the ties securing that veneer to the rest of the building have failed. The planned streetscape improvements on that section of East Market Street requires the removal and replacement of the exisiting sidewalk, and it was evident the jackhammer vibrations would bring that brick veneer crashing down. Preliminary estimates to secure the brick veneer in the $200,000-300,000 range.” [...]

  4. By Hogg’s Blog » A tree grows through it on September 2, 2006 at 8:31 pm

    [...] Following last week’s post on the pending demolition of the old structure the city bought three years ago, Councilwoman Carmany made some phone calls to get the skinny.  Regarding the reported delamination, head inspector Butch Simmons convinced Sandy that the building is in imminent danger of collapse… or as she puts it in my comments… “…the ties securing that veneer to the rest of the building have failed. The planned streetscape improvements on that section of East Market Street requires the removal and replacement of the exisiting sidewalk, and it was evident the jackhammer vibrations would bring that brick veneer crashing down. Preliminary estimates to secure the brick veneer in the $200,000-300,000 range.” [...]