The Mount Airy Town Council introduced an ordinance Monday night that, if passed, would overturn the council’s May 2022 decision to demolish the historic Flat Iron building, at 206 S. Main St., and instead put funds toward its rehabilitation and preservation.
The three-page ordinance states that the town has completed an “extensive study and investigation” of the Flat Iron Building, including an analysis of its “structural integrity” and “has had exhaustive discussions among town elected officials ... the Mount Airy Volunteer Fire Company, the Mount Airy Historical Society, group(s) of concerned citizens interested in preserving the building, the Maryland Preservation Society, the town’s insurers and citizens of the town and surrounding areas, among others, over the course of many years” and has concluded that it would be in the interests of the town and its residents to rehabilitate the building instead of demolishing it.
The ordinance was only introduced Monday and will come back for a vote on March 6, at the Town Council’s next regular meeting. Council President Jason Poirier said a “deeper conversation” on the ordinance would happen next month. He thanked the Flat Iron Building task force for meeting with the council at a Jan. 31 public workshop focused on next steps for the building.
In May, the Town Council voted 3-2 to demolish the structure because of safety concerns. Later that month, Mount Airy Mayor Larry Hushour said he was exploring options to instead preserve the historic building. Hushour put together a task force of residents in August to study structural and engineering improvements needed to save the building from being demolished.
During the Jan. 31 workshop, the task force recommended that the town proceed with the rehabilitation and preservation of the building. Members said they intend to continue studying improvements that can be made to the design of the building, as well as apply for grants to help pay for the work.
The 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.
Poirier said at the January 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.
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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.