Building demolition is slow, but sure

Saturday, October 10, 2015
Jason E. Silvers/Tribune photo A worker removes brick from the west side of the former Western Insurance building Friday afternoon. The tower is being demolished as part of a project to redevelop the property into a senior apartment complex.

While moving a little slower than anticipated, progress is being made on demolition of structures on the former Western Insurance property, officials said.

Workers with Industrial Wrecking Co., Inc., of Kansas City, Mo., have been working since this summer to tear down the crossover that joins the two towers that make up the property located at 14 E. First St., as well as the non-historic structure to the west of the historic building.

Fort Scott Director of Economic Development Heather Griffith said Friday while project work is moving slowly, she confirmed through Flint Hills Holding LLC, the property developers, the company has a timeline and work is progressing.

"They're right on track with everything," Griffith said.

According to Tom Larkin, vice president of Flint Hills Holding, demolition is anticipated to be complete within the next 30-60 days, at which point the company is expected to close on financing for the development project, Griffith said.

Renovation of the historic structure to transform it into about 40 senior living apartments will follow the demolition.

"They anticipate start of construction on the renovation toward the end of the year," Griffith said.

Most of the $9 million cost of the redevelopment project is being funded by the property development company, which works with historic buildings.

The city has contributed about $1 million in capital improvement funds for cleanup of asbestos and mold inside the buildings, as well as interior demolition which have already been completed. The city commitment also includes demolition of the non-historic structure. Once the west tower is demolished, plans are to use the lot for a parking area, officials said.

Fort Scott Fire Chief Paul Ballou, who has been monitoring the demolition project since it began, said Friday crews are "getting to the final part of demolition.

"They've already done the abatement and cleaned out everything that needed to be cleaned out," he said. "They're on the last leg to get that down completely on the ground. They're taking it down mostly by hand right now because it's so close to the building to the south."

Ballou said workers are first removing the crossover structure, as well as bricks on the west side of the building and concrete floors inside the building. He said the goal is to get the building "down to the structural steel.

"They're taking it down floor by floor," he said. "The building itself is structural steel and concrete. That's the main support of the building. The brick being taken down is basically cosmetic over the years. The structural steel is the final step."

Ballou said the original plan was for the demolition project to take about two months to complete. He said there has been talk of bringing in heavy equipment for the major parts of the demolition but he wasn't sure if and when that would happen.

There have been some delays in the project due to weather, he said.

The property developers are using federal tax credits allocated through the Kansas Housing Resource Corporation to fund the development project. Tony Krsnich, CEO of Flint Hills Holding LLC, purchased the old Western building for $1 at a county tax sale in 2014. Demolition has also been approved by the State Historic Preservation Office.

The renovation project is expected to take about eight to 10 months to complete.