After Cambridge fire, aim is to save a battered facade

January 18, 2008|By Chris Guy ... | Chris Guy ...,Sun reporter

CAMBRIDGE -- Preservationists are scrambling to save the fire-battered facade of a century-old storefront that was destroyed by a seven-alarm blaze Tuesday in the historic business district.

Developer Brett Summers has obtained a temporary restraining order blocking demolition of the brick storefront, which housed two antiques shops. The building is next door to an old McCrory's store Summers converted into seven apartments and restaurant space.

Summers said the 10-day court order will give the Cambridge Main Street program time to seek an emergency grant to shore up the storefront facade while he and other potential buyers decide whether to bid on it.

"My first priority is to make sure [the McCrory's] building isn't damaged any further," Summers said. "Buying next door is not something I was thinking about a few days ago, but if it were a fair price, I'd consider it."

City officials have been unable to contact the owner of the damaged building, Young Hwang, a woman who lives in Florida, said Liddie Garcia-Bunuel, executive director of the Main Street program.

David Harp, Main Street president, said demolition would leave a permanent scar in the downtown district that has been improving lately after ailing for decades. "It would leave us with a gaping hole," said Harp. "It would be like a gap-toothed smile in an important block."

City officials could still issue an emergency demolition order if the brick shell is deemed a threat to public safety. "It's a big thing for a lot of people who want to keep the familiar front," said Mayor C. L. Rippons.

State fire officials have not determined a cause of the fire, which caused an estimated $1.5 million in damage.

chris.guy@baltsun.com

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