Washington & Second

Stopped. Watched. icon

Former road commission building at 415 W. Washington now bears sign reading “Renovation Yes, Demolition No!” Context is that Ann Arbor city council work session on March 25 included mention that the more likely outcome for the now vacant city-owned building is demolition. [photo] A nice shot of the whole facade from several years ago by Jim Rees: [Flickr]

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  1. March 30, 2013 at 1:13 pm | permalink

    Thanks for the plug, Dave!

  2. By TJ
    March 31, 2013 at 6:04 pm | permalink

    Why would anyone with good (design, fiscal, public health) sense want to see that building renovated? Didn’t the report say it was structurally unsound and chock full of hazardous materials? No accounting for nostalgia, I guess.

  3. By C Bultman
    April 1, 2013 at 10:36 am | permalink


    “Why would anyone with good (design, fiscal, public health) sense want to see that building renovated?”

    The answer is simple, because it is a perfectly good candidate for renovation.

    Design – It’s a contributing piece of the historic fabric of this neighborhood and it is also an historic structure. The architecture is fine while the finishes need some attention.

    Fiscal – In my world there is a saying, “The greenest building is the one that is already built.” The saying comes from the idea that the initial energy it takes to manufacture and build a building is enormous therefore the more we use what we have, instead of spending the energy to tear it down and build new, the more energy we save. That translates to money; every time. Yes, a building can be in a state where renovation makes no sense; 415 is not there.

    Public health – I have no idea where you are going with this. There is nothing about this building that will be a negative with respect to public health once the building is renovated. All of the hazardous materials have to be abated from this building before it can be demolished or renovated; that is state law.

    “Didn’t the report say…”

    What report? The recent consultants hired by the city have not completed their reports. So which ‘report’ are you citing? Maybe it was the news article where it is clear that people are angling to have 415 torn down for reasons that are different.

    “…it was structurally unsound and chock full of hazardous materials?”

    I have personally toured this building many times in the last 12 months and I am qualified to declare that this building is structurally sound. Moreover, my tours included escorting contractors and sub-contractors through this building specifically to convince me that it was not a good candidate for renovation and all of them agreed with me that there was no reason to tear this building down.

    As for the hazardous materials, yes there are some but this is common. Most buildings have some, especially if they are 100 years old. It’s no big deal though and it is never a fatal flaw. We abate hazardous materials all the time and, as I said, they will have to be abated from 415 before anything else is done. Also I like to remind people that the ‘white’ of the White House is lead based paint.

    415 may not look so nice right now but I have personally toured many buildings in much worse shape that were successfully renovated. The Georgetown Post Office, for example, was a mess before it was restored. And about 17 years ago I tour a few hundred thousand square feet of abandoned buildings at St. Elizabeth’s that looked like Beirut during wartime. They were then left to languish for another 15 years and are only now being renovated.

    I will point out that the most significant issues that can prove troublesome for 415 are the city’s, and the county’s, requirements for stormwater detention. While this building is a perfect candidate for leniency, meaning working to make it better with respect to storm water without meeting every aspect of the code, these rules can be used to shut down any future use. It will be difficult to meet all of the requirement given its location and siting.