'Sigh of relief': Time to close deal on downtown building

·4 min read

Jan. 27—ASHLAND — After weeks of reviewing the bids, the Ashland City Commission is expected to seal the deal on a contract to rip down the Ashland Oil building at today's meeting.

The commission is expected to take a vote on awarding the $ 2.4 million project to O'Rourke Wrecking Company out of Cincinnati. Mayor Matt Perkins said Wednesday that tearing down the old building is a "sigh of relief" for the commission, which has dedicated nearly $3 million towards the "fight against blight" in the city this year.

"This building symbolizes the proud past we have had, and tearing it down will make way for a bright future in the form a convention center," Perkins said. "This has been on the books for many years, so I'm glad to see some action on this."

As evidenced by a walk-through to local media on Wednesday, the Ashland Oil Building — at 1401 Winchester Ave. — is beyond repair. City Manager Mike Graese said he hates to see such a historical building go, but at this point it's the best option to move forward.

"I hate it, I really do," he said. "But this building is a safety hazard at this point."

The building was obtained by the city in the mid-2010s, from the Bank of Louisa.

With ceilings leaking from water damage, musty smelling black mold running rife on sheetrock, carpet and paneling and the asbestos popcorn ceilings and black mastic underneath the tiles, the cost of repair would be too much to get it up to code, according to City Engineer Steve Cole.

"The cost got too high to keep up with this building, so it needs demolition," Cole said. "There is a significant amount of asbestos in here, so that's really going to be a big challenge in the demolition process."

Due to water damage, many walls are seeing paint peeling and drop ceilings bulking, with the tile tracks falling into the floor in some rooms. There's also broken glass and the occasional beer can sitting about the areas as well — Graese said there had been issues with people breaking into the building over the years.

And the basement looks like it's straight out of a horror movie.

Cole, whose department has been integral in reviewing the demolition plans, said over time Mother Nature has done a dent on this building — tearing it down in a controlled fashion is much safer than allowing the elements to do its thing.

Due to the asbestos, air monitoring will be conducted during the teardown to make sure the amount of the dusty substance getting into the air is within code, Cole said.

Asbestos, a fire-retardant material used in mid-20th Century construction, was outlawed in new builds starting in the late 1980s due to its links to mesothelioma — a nasty, fatal tumor. Before the building can come down, Cole said it needs abated — which means a special contractor has to come and take out the asbestos — prior to the building actually being ripped down.

Asbestos can be categorized into two varieties: friable and non-friable. Friable asbestos is material containing asbestos that can be crushed with hand pressure, whereas non-friable asbestos is cannot be crushed with hand pressure. Neither is deadly unless disturbed, however friable poses a bigger risk because it's easier to disturb it.

Asbestos is commonly found in floor tiles (9-inch by 9-inch; they switched to 12-inch by 12-inch after asbestos was outlawed), popcorn-style concrete ceilings, black adhesive found underneath carpeting and tile and pipe wraps, the latter of which is friable and extremely prone to going airborne.

Alongside efforts to mitigate asbestos exposure, Cole said there will also be vibration monitoring for the historic church across 14th Street, to make sure any demolition does not affect it and its foundation. Another concern is any vibration affecting the Delta Hotel, too, Cole said.

Lead paint was also found inside the structure, which brings additional challenges, Cole said.

Once the contract is awarded, Cole said there would be a 60- to 90-day turnaround period for the paperwork and planning, then boots would be on the ground getting the job done. From there — depending on the amount of asbestos found inside (it has a tendency to hide during remodels) — Cole said the job is projected to last about 270 days.

City Commissioner Amanda Clark, a longtime champion for downtown redevelopment, said it "feels great to see something getting down after a few decades of stagnation."

"I think this a great step forward for our downtown development and it's a fantastic location for a future convention center," she said. "This will drive tourism dollars and the tourism dollars will translate into more tax money coming in. That's taxes that's being paid for by people outside of our community — that's a win-win for everybody."

(606) 326-2653 — henry@dailyindependent.com