Owner asks to tear down historic wall He wants to rebuild structure destroyed in December fire

'It's just not fair'

Preservationists protested plan for demolition

January 28, 1998|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

The owner of a building damaged in a spectacular fire on Annapolis' historic Main Street in December asked again yesterday for permission to tear down the remaining front wall of the two-story structure so he can rebuild.

Ronald B. Hollander, the owner of 184-186 Main St., told the city's Historic Preservation Commission that he was willing to re-create the second-story arches in a new building. But the property owner said he can't imagine the commission asking him to spend roughly $100,000 to preserve the remaining brick wall in any new building put up.

"It's just not fair to anybody," Hollander said toward the end of a 2 1/2 -hour hearing. "I now plan to build a Class A mixed-use, office-retail building that everyone would be proud of."

Under a judge's ruling in December, the commission must decide whether Hollander may destroy what is left of the charred structure, which dates to 1899.

Before the ruling, Hollander had sought an emergency demolition permit from the city, which required no approval by the commission. The city denied the application when preservationists protested.

The commission, seven volunteers appointed by the mayor, decides what external changes may be made to buildings in the city's one-third-square-mile historic district.

Demolitions are rare in the district.

"When we have a structure in the historic district that is unstable or deteriorating, we notify the property owner to take action and generally the action is to fix it up," said Russ Morgan, bureau chief for the office of license and permits in the city Public Works Department. Morgan, who did not speak at the hearing, said he could not remember any demolitions in the historic district in the past five years.

Hollander's building, home to an Indian restaurant, was destroyed Dec. 9. The brick facade is all that remains, and it is unsafe and too damaged to save, Hollander says.

He had three engineers, a mason and an architect testify to the extensive damage to the bricks, the difficulty and high cost of trying to preserve what is left, and the relative ease with which he could re-create the building front from scratch.

"There's nothing you can do to this brick to even get it to approach any kind of strength again," said Steven Gross, an engineer with Minkoff Co, which specializes in fire restoration. "They're trash," he said, holding up a hunk of charred brick from the inside of the facade, the most damaged portion.

Annapolis preservationists still object.

Even the relatively new first-floor facade is worth saving because it is part of the body of work of contemporary architect James Wood Burch, said Ann M. Fligsten, president of the Historic Annapolis Foundation.

Before Fligsten and other preservationists could speak, the rest of the hearing on Hollander's application was put off until next week.

Pub Date: 1/28/98

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