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Howard officials to seek approval to partially raze old Ellicott City building ravaged by flooding

Howard officials to seek approval to partially raze old Ellicott City building ravaged by flooding
The store of Sweet Elizabeth Jane, formerly Caplan's, is seen during a tour of the flood damage along Main Street in Ellicott City on Aug. 3. (Brian Krista / Baltimore Sun Media Group file)

Howard County officials will seek approval next week from the Historic Preservation Commission to demolish a portion of a building that once housed the Caplan’s department store in historic Ellicott City.

When unveiling five flood mitigation options for Ellicott City at a press conference last week, County Executive Calvin Ball said officials would “quickly” seek to raze the portion of the building that sits above the Tiber channel because of “concerns about structural integrity.”

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The building was ravaged in the 2018 flood after more than 8 feet of water poured out of the Tiber channel and overflowed onto Main Street in historic Ellicott City, leaving one person dead. It was built in 1926 and designed by Baltimore architect Stanislaus Russell, according to county documents. Howard purchased the building in early April for $1.21 million, according to a state database.

The county has not settled on which specific demolition scenario it will pursue, but said it will remove the concrete floor deck that goes across the channel as well as its supporting beams as they are both in “structural failure.” Officials also want to remove a wall parallel to the stream and a northern wall in the original second floor. The roof, its framing and the remaining east and west walls over the channel will be removed.

Notes from the commission’s staff said the portion of the structure that defines the building is the facade, which will be preserved by the removal of the other parts. The staff recommended the commission approve the application as submitted.

The county needs the commission’s approval for demolition because the building is in a historic district.

Officials also plan to ask the county if 14 signs can be installed to tell people what to do in the event of a flash flood.

The county also will ask for advice on replacing the sidewalks between 8333 Main Street and 8267 Main Street. After the 2016 flood, the county replaced the sidewalks with asphalt. The replacement was meant to be temporary until long-term building decisions were made, the application said. The sidewalks have changed multiple times since the 1990s and were once brick, pebble concrete and asphalt.

The Historic Preservation Commission will host a meeting at 7 p.m. May 1 in the George Howard building. On May 2, officials will host a meeting where residents will be able to provide testimony on the five flood mitigation options the county is considering. The meeting will take place at Howard High School at 7 p.m.

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