Thursday, December 1, 2022

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Council decides city will demolish, rather than renovate, former Moorefield Florist building downtown

Burlington’s city council has decided to raze an old downtown florist building that it had originally purchased in 2017 in order to expand the premises of the adjacent Paramount Theater.

During a monthly work session on Monday, the council reached a consensus to demolish the former Moorefield Florist building at 138 East Front Street as a prelude to some brand new construction that will augment the neighboring city-owned theater.

Prior to Monday’s discussion, the council had toyed with the idea of revamping the former flower shop building, which it purchased nearly five years ago for $130,000, and incorporating it into the theater’s overall footprint. This prospect effectively withered during the work session after city staff members presented the council with some updated cost estimates for the building’s renovation.

During the work session, assistant city manager Nolan Kirkman informed the council that the city would have to lay out about $1.6 million to remodel the old edifice – as compared to the $1.9 million it would need to replace it with a new, one-story structure. In either case, Kirkman said that the project’s total cost will be driven up by the extraction of some underground storage tanks that need to be removed before the city proceeds with either the building’s renovation or the construction of a new building.

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Kirkman told the council that, if its members prefer to keep the existing structure, they should begin by replacing the building’s roof, which he warned will require an immediate outlay of $47,000 to $112,000.

“If it gets too much [more] damage,” the assistant city manager went on to remark, “it would make it difficult to renovate that building.”

The former Moorefield Florist building (minus signage) now has significant roofing problems, according to city officials.

The prospect of a new roof for the old building seemed to fall flat with Burlington’s mayor Jim Butler, who told the rest of the council that he’d prefer to replace the existing building with a new one that’s better suited to the changing face of Burlington’s downtown business district.

Butler’s proposal was immediately echoed by councilman Ronnie Wall and later, by other council members, who proceeded to bandy around some ideas for the facility that would eventually supplant the former florist. Some members of the council even suggested the possibility of a two-story structure – notwithstanding the one-level building that city staff have so far assumed in all of their cost calculations.

Kirkman assured the council it can continue to wrangle over the new building’s designs even after it has agreed to move forward with the flower shop’s demolition. He went on to estimate a five-month timetable to tear down the existing building, extract the aforementioned storage tanks, and remediate any contamination that these tanks may leave behind. Kirkman told the council that this work will set the city back some $379,500.

The assistant city manager noted that it may take anywhere between 9 and 12 months to design a building to replace the florist building, and he projected another 12 to 18 months to complete its construction. He also suggested that, as a prelude to the new building’s design, the council should commission some conceptual plans for a new building from the architectural firm Clearscapes, which had previously drawn up some proposals for the building’s renovation.

The council ultimately gave Kirkman the go-ahead to contact Clearscapes after it arrived at a consensus to proceed with the demolition of the existing structure.

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