An ordinance to rehabilitate and preserve the historic Flat Iron Building will be introduced at the Mount Airy Town Council’s regular meeting Monday.
The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m., at Mount Airy Town Hall, 110 South Main St.
Council member Lynne Galletti attended a Jan. 31 workshop focused on next steps for the building, located at the intersection of Park Avenue and Main Street in Mount Airy. Galletti serves as council liaison to the Flat Iron Building task force.
“I believe we’re here to do something about it, right?” Galletti said at the workshop. “All these citizens want to do something. ... So, let’s do something about it. ... This building has been talked about for 30 years. We’ve got to the point where we’re doing something about it now. Is that why we’re here?”
Galletti’s comments were received with applause from the audience.
Mayor Larry Hushour said in an email late Thursday that he was proud of the task force’s accomplishments.
“I am optimistic and appreciative of the task force, the council, many volunteers and the historical society for working so hard to reach common ground leading to the preservation of this iconic and important feature of Mount Airy’s Main Street,” Hushour said.
For more than a decade, the town has been trying to decide the fate of the historic building.
In May, the Town Council voted 3-2 to demolish the structure because of safety concerns. Later that month, Hushour said he was exploring options to instead preserve the historic building.
He put together a task force of residents in August to study structural and engineering improvements needed to save the building from being demolished. The task force has nine members, including Hushour and Galletti.
The building is significant because it was rebuilt out of brick after the Fire of 1903 burned all of South Main Street. William Smith, a harness maker, owned the structure at the time. Since 1903, it has stood in various configurations and had many uses, including as the town hall, a museum and the first American Legion Post in town after World War II.
The existing building has three floors with a footprint of about 1,000 square feet. The construction is load-bearing concrete or brick walls, with two wood-framed floors, a wood-framed ceiling over the upper level and a wood-framed roof.
In 1950, the town purchased the building with an intent to demolish it and widen Main Street, but in 1959, the Town Council voted to keep the building intact.
Council President Jason Poirier said at the workshop that three different engineering reports have been completed on the decaying building since 2012. In January 2022, the Town Council awarded a $40,000 contract to Design Collective, an architectural firm, to explore development options for the Flat Iron Building site.
The most recent structural assessment of the building was done on Jan. 3.
In 2012, a visual assessment was conducted, and noted weathering of the motor joints and exterior brick walls, along with several cracks in the concrete.
The town paid $24,000 for a structural assessment of the building by Albrecht Engineering, Inc., whose report was published Jan. 3.
The engineering firm estimated a cost of about $541,000 to rehab the main structure, complete site work and construct a tunnel that would replace a narrow portion of sidewalk along the current building and create a tunnel walkway along Main Street for pedestrians. The report noted the estimate was for structural improvement costs only, and there would be architectural, site/utility and other costs not covered in the report.
“We are all here to work together to collectively figure out what is the best for this building, and the best for the residents, for the Town of Mount Airy,” Poirier said. “I think that is really important, because as we start to take a look at grants and budget we’re going to be using taxpayers dollars for some of these things.”
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Hushour gave a presentation at the Jan. 31 workshop on what the task force considers the next steps to restore the building.
The mayor said there are a number of grants the town could apply for to help with the funding. He also suggested bringing on partners such as Preservation Maryland and a master planner to help with ideas for restoration.
“If we think about this project in a phase-based funding capacity, each phase of the project can be bolstered not with just the town budget, but by pursing grants as well,” he said.
But Hushour stressed repeatedly that the first step is having the Town Council vote to save the building.
“What the committee has been asking the Town Council is to first vote to save the building,” he said. “The next step is a thumbs up that needs to occur to save this building. Then moving forward we can decide whether to save it in place or save it by moving it or not.”