Spec Building Plan Forges Ahead

BLYTHEWOOD – Although Town Council will not have to take any action to proceed with the construction of an investment shell building proposed by Ed Parler, the Town’s Economic Development Consultant, it did take a significant step forward with the design of the building Monday evening, voting unanimously to contract with architect Ralph Walden to design the shell, prepare construction drawings and bid out the construction at a cost of $18,900. That cost does not include construction oversight.

Since the summer, Parler has urged Council to construct a spec shell building on the Town Hall grounds with grant money the previous Council was awarded five years ago by Fairfield Electric Cooperative to construct a high end restaurant in the same location. The current Council voted to abandon those plans and, Parler said, $342,490 of the original $456,881 grant remains. He wants to see that money, which must be spent on an economic development project, used to construct the shell building. Parler said he estimates the Town will have to float about $133,000 for about 90 days to make up the difference, then pay itself back from the proceeds of the sale of the shell.

Parler said the hard construction costs (infrastructure and construction) of the shell are eligible for the grant money, but the soft costs (engineering, fill dirt, grading, survey and other associated costs) would have to be borne by the Town.

“Going forward with this project,” Parler told Council, “I suggest we contract for the architectural design and engineering (with Walden) now, so we can have bid documents ready by the end of October in anticipation of awarding a construction contract at the November meeting. In December we will send out a Request for Proposal and hope to consummate a sale by February.”

Parler told The Voice he is comfortable with the timeline and confident of the sale.

When asked by Councilman Bob Mangone to explain the difference between the previously planned restaurant and the shell project, Parler said, “The (previous) restaurant was of much greater quality than the shell we are planning now.”

In a memo to Council, Walden wrote that while the exterior of the structure will be similar in design to the town’s former train depot, it will be built on piers and will be primarily framed with common wood framing, including the roof and that the exterior siding would not be the more expensive ‘architectural’ thick wood siding appearance that had been planned for the upscale restaurant, but rather the standard Hardee horizontal siding.

Walden said the deck and railings would be made of No. 1 treated lumber and that it would be smaller than previously planned. The non-functioning chimney will be eliminated and the walk-in cooler/freezer, if provided by an end user, will be outside the building alongside the rear. The ‘box’ will be painted to match the building color. He said windows and doors will be standard ‘clad’ type units, not special order.

Walden said the 3,800-square-foot shell building would be suitable for a restaurant, professional office or a side office and small food establishment. He said the end user would have to spend another $100,000 to $125,000 for additional finish work on the building.

Parler told Council previously that the plan was not for the town to own the building but to sell it. No vote will be required of Council for the project until it contracts to sell the building.