Demo d'oh! Downtown building falls sans permit
As mentioned in an aside yesterday, contractor Alexander / Nicholson Inc. applied for a permit to demolish a 14-year old apartment building at 220-222 South Street, making way for a new 6,800-square-foot conference center for the Blue Moon Fund. There's only one problem: the building has already been demolished.
Despite developer Oliver Kuttner’s offer to buy and move the building to property he owns next door, the Blue Moon Fund elected to demolish some rare affordable housing downtown (the building had five two-bedroom, two bath apartments with rents from $850 to $1,050) to make room for the new conference center. Because the building is in a historic district, the Fund had to seek approval from the Board of Architectural Review approval to demolish it, which it received last year.
At the time, a representative of the Fund, which counts supporting new approaches to urban development to “improve the human condition” as one of its initiatives, justified the demo by saying the existing building was energy inefficient and that the Fund didn’t want to “perpetuate that kind of construction.”
"This is the first I've heard of it," said City building inspector Tom Elliott after being informed about the demo. "They should have gotten a permit before they took the building down."
However, City permit technician Lisa Barmore, who processes demo and building permits, appeared to be familiar with the project, calling the demo application a "formality" and saying "they were supposed to have gotten one beforehand."
"This sometimes happens when a contractor thinks a building permit covers demolition," says Elliott, speculating on the mix-up, but said it's usually when something like a garage comes down or there's a partial demolition of a property. "For as long as I've been here, that's the first building of that size that has come down without a permit," he said.
City preservation planner Mary Joy Scala said she found the situation "unusual," but did not sound alarmed by the news. "The part I care about is that the BAR reviewed the project and approved the demo," she said.
Still, Elliott says that demolishing a building without a permit is not permissible, and can prompt a stop work order or a lawsuit. However, Elliott says that if the building isn't historic, any kind of real punishment in these cases is rare. Even when a contractor goes before a judge, he says, the judge usually approves the demo if the contractor has a permit in their hand, even if it was applied for just days before the court date.
Elliott says he plans to speak with Barmore and look into what happened. Calls to Alexander / Nicholson Inc. had not been immediately returned by the time of this post.