The fate of a historic Broad Street building heavily damaged by a January fire will involve a wrecking ball.
The Augusta Historic Preservation Commission approved a petition Thursday from Michael Osbon to demolish the facade of a three-story structure at 1162 Broad St. after an early morning blaze on Jan. 3 left the building with substantial fire and water damage.
Osbon, president of Julian W. Osbon Partnership, which owns the building, told the panel that he is still in the “discovery” phase of figuring out his next step for the property that houses the 15,000-square-foot building on the corner of Broad and 12th streets. He said that saving the brick shell of the structure does not appear to be financially feasible.
Osbon said preliminary estimates show that demolition could cost $130,000, while scaffolding or erecting pole bracing on the building to save the facade would be much more expensive. The property and building, erected in 1903, was valued at nearly $700,000 before the fire, according to city records.
Osbon said he hit a roadblock in restoration efforts after finding out that he’d be unable to qualify for tax credits if funds from an insurance company were used.
“Our preliminary effort was to go straight toward preservation,” he said. “We just continued to find issues that have made that more difficult.”
Shortly after the fire, Osbon said an insurance claims adjuster deemed the building’s interior a total structural loss.
Though he plans to rebuild once the 15,000-square-foot building is torn down, Osbon said he is awaiting further information from his insurance company before he knows what or when he’ll develop there.
“I still have a lot of financial questions,” he said.
While fire damage was confined to the third floor, the first and second floors were destroyed by water.
Augusta fire investigators have determined the blaze started on the third floor and cited arson as a possible cause, but have not released final results of the investigation.
The building includes six apartments on the second and third floors. Downtown Dental had occupied the first floor since 2006. Dr. Juanita Adkins, of Downtown Dental, did not attend the hearing and couldn’t be reached about the future of her practice.
Osbon said he also needs to move forward with the project so that the portion of 12th Street between Broad and Ellis streets that’s been blocked by barricades since the fire can reopen. The city has informed him that he owes $6,000 – $112 for each day the street has been closed – to cover costs of the barricades, he said
While the five commissioners present granted the approval for demolition, they required that Osbon return in 90 days to inform them of his post-demolition plans.
Commission member Dave Barbee said demolition was the only option, as the restoration project would likely prove cost prohibitive.
The structure, now named the Brislan Building, housed several furniture stores from the early 1900s through the early 1980s, according to Augusta Chronicle archives.