Originally created 11/29/03

Officials search for money to save crumbling building



SAVANNAH, Ga. - At first, the Savannah College of Art and Design just had a building that was falling down.

Now it has to find $2.3 million to stabilize the building by June, when the city of Savannah starts ripping up the road to lay new drainage lines.

The college has been under city orders to stabilize the historic Central of Georgia Upfreight Warehouse since April, but school officials heard about the drainage project only two weeks ago. The city closed part of Turner Boulevard because the building might fall over onto the road.

"If (the stabilization) doesn't get done, the city would have to go in and abate that unsafe condition," said Bill Vickers, Savannah's inspections director. That means the city would condemn the building.

In seeking a solution, city officials, college officials and members of the Savannah Historic District Board of Review met earlier this week in the shadow of the building to see what the school is proposing to secure the 150-year-old structure.

The warped, crumbling building is one of 15 in the Central Georgia Railroad Savannah Shops and Terminal Facilities National Historic Landmark District.

Inside the building, weeds and trees grow to where the roof once was. The roof has collapsed and is pushing the 20-foot-tall walls outward in places.

"As much as we hate to tear down the structure, there's not a lot we can do with (walls that are) 17 inches out of plumb," said project architect Neil Dawson.

At this point, plans are for the building to house a working museum with classrooms and galleries. It is unclear how much the renovation would cost.