White Hall demolition approved

Historic and sentimental but an eyesore and safety hazard were ways neighbors described the charred, collapsing building the Grand Junction City Council approved for demolition at Wednesday’s meeting.

The $313,650 White Hall asbestos abatement and demolition project of the main sanctuary is expected to start Sept. 4 with a completion date at the end of October, according to city officials.

“It’s heartbreaking to have to take it down ... but at least it will be a step toward redevelopment and a benefit to the community,” City Engineering Manager Trent Prall said.

A September 2011 fire destroyed the sanctuary of the 1920s church that now sits shrouded by a chained fence at the corner of Sixth Street and White Avenue. The city took ownership of the property in May after former owner Rosemarie Glas never followed through on plans to demolish it. City officials intend to sell it in the hopes a private party will convert it into a vital, tax-producing property.

Asbestos was found in the roof, now fallen and mingled with debris, as well as in the furnace, Prall said. The furnace is isolated, so removal will be relatively simple, but for the pieces of the roof, a foaming agent or water will be needed to keep it from becoming airborne, and air will be monitored to protect adjacent buildings, he said.

Dan Ryan, an actor and parent with children involved in the arts, has many fond memories of White Hall. His last starring role there was in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in 2004.

“I have a sweet spot for that building,” said Ryan, creative director for RSW Partners, a business neighbor of the building. “I hate to see it go, but with the state it’s in, it has to go.”

He’s hoping that something to do with performing arts will rise from its ashes.

“It will be kind of fun to see what comes up in its place,” he said.

Ryan is not alone in his hopes, as community members voiced ideas for a community center and other public uses through social media, but that likely will not be in the cards for White Hall.

The Grand Junction Downtown Development Authority is more interested in having the property redeveloped as a tax-producing, private property,  Executive Director Harry Weiss said.

The project may be funded through sales tax tax-increment financing normally transferred to the DDA, and following the demolition the DDA will more thoroughly explore options for use.

One currently on the top of its list is housing. In fact, the east wing of the three-story building added in 1955 to serve as an education wing of the church would nicely fit the layout for 15 apartments, Weiss said. This building is not part of the demolition, but will also need to undergo an asbestos abatement.

In other council news, the five members present unanimously approved an airport improvement grant for an aircraft rescue firefighting vehicle. The $700,000 will be used to replace a 24-year-old rescue vehicle, as required by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Council members also granted an agreement with Powderhorn Mountain Resort requesting a lease of 140 acre feet of water from the city’s Somerville Reservoir. The water will be used for snowmaking and the ski area will cover the cost of the pipeline and pump.


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