Businesses Re-Open Around Crumbling Building
Businesses adjacent to the iconic Binder Building at 34 East Michigan Avenue in downtown Battle Creek have re-opened, after city officials deemed they are safe. On Friday, September 6th, it was discovered that the triangular structure, built in 1887, had partially collapsed. The city ordered the businesses vacated, and put up chain link fence all around the perimeter. Today, some of the fence is being removed, and power has been restored to those businesses. They include Ermisch Travel, New York Connections, All State Insurance, Randy Case’s Architecture + Design office, and an apartment.
Chief Building Official at City of Battle Creek Richard Bolek says there’s still a threat posed by the building’s current condition. “In these situations, the initial response calls for us to secure an area 2 ½ times the building height.” The building is approximately 75 feet tall, so that required city officials to cordon off an area of about 190 feet around the historic stone building. “There is still a serious potential hazard”, Bolek told WBCK. He said a portion of the fifth and sixth floors collapsed onto the 4th floor inside the building, which was originally a slaughterhouse owned by the Binder Family. The unique building is thought by some to be sort of a Battle Creek version of the “Flat Iron Building” in New York City. The question now is, what will happen to it?
Bolek says they called in Building Restoration Inc, owned by Blair Bates to evaluate the condition of the building. He says they’ll still leave the fencing up near the structure. Bolek says it’ll be up to building owner Bryant DeBolt to decide what the fate of the building will be. He expects Bates will give DeBolt some financial indication of what needs to be done very soon. Efforts by WBCK to contact DeBolt have not been successful. It is believed that there is no insurance on the building that would cover the repairs.
Architect Randy Case, a community leader in historic preservation, says there appear to be cracks in the two stone walls, from the roof line, down about three floors. He says the walls have had cracks before the collapse of the north wall last week, but that those cracks were not as pronounced before. He says that it’s his understanding that the building is OK from the triangular point where the two stone walls meet, to the center of the structure where an elevator is located. But the damage is just north of the elevator, and the crumbling wall to the north appears to be of some sort of material other than brick. That wall is severely cracked and bowing outward.
Building Restoration Inc. owner Blair Bates told WBCK that he flew a drone over the building, which revealed that some work was started on roof repair, but that the roof had significant open areas, and that roof joists were exposed. Bates said he met with DeBolt and made him aware of what needs to be done to stabilize the building. Bates said “It’ll take a tremendous amount of work to stabilize it, probably more than $100,000. He says he gave DeBolt the thought process about tearing the building down versus stabilization. “It’s up to him to decide. It’s a beautiful building, but life costs money.” Bates says the building will continue to deteriorate quickly if nothing is done. He says he sent his findings to several city officials.”
Architect Cody Newman was asked by the city to look at the building. He says they went up on Friday in a fire truck boom, but couldn't tell much. Newman says he went inside the building with Bates and Debolt on Monday evening. They climbed the stairway to the top floor to get a close look at the damage. "The biggest challenge toward stabilizing it would be cleaning out all the debris and items that were in storage on the affected floors. The wall that is badly cracked and bowing out is not a load-bearing wall, so that's not a major problem. Once the building is cleared out, steel supports could be added at the roof to secure it until restoration could be done."
Newman says he felt DeBolt seemed optimistic and seriously wants to try and save the building. It remains to be seen if he'll be able to do that.