The Ivanhoe building, dubbed the “leaning tower of Ivanhoe” last year, after photos showed it leaning over the sidewalks of downtown Palestine, stands straighter after months of work and renovation. But it may still come down, city officials said.
The matter is on the agenda for the buildings and standards commission Thursday, said City Manager Leslie Cloer. “We'll have a better idea as to what will become of it after that.”
In April of last year, the Ivanhoe, built in 1913, gained some notoriety when bricks from the top of its two-story facade began raining onto the pavement below. Multiple substandard building complaints were filed with the city, claiming the structure was a public safety hazard that violated numerous city codes.
Photos used as evidence of the building's lack of structural integrity showed the front facade leaning at a precarious angle over the sidewalk.
Architect Mark Thacker, hired by the city to inspect the Ivanhoe, told the Herald-Press the photos were nothing more than optical illusions, and the remains of the building were perfectly sound.
“I went around the whole building with a 48-inch digital level,” he said. “It didn't have a lean of more than half-a-percent anywhere; well within normal tolerances. There's no movement in the foundation. What's left of the building is structurally sound.”
City workers have sealed entrances to the building with plywood, sheet-metal, and padlocked gates, making it practically impossible for children, vandals, or unsuspecting residents to enter the Ivanhoe. A 15-foot dumpster outside is filled with the glass, metal, and stone building debris that public works employees have spent months removing from the property.
Cloer said city codes have not been violated because the building has been undergoing non-stop renovation since last June.
“I saw some workers out there just today,” she said. “Interim Development Services Coordinator Mark Miears is going out there for another inspection prior to Thursday's meeting.”
The building, 201 E Oak St., was purchased by the Texas Area Fund Foundation two years ago. Last year, the TAFF, a philanthropic organization merged with a similar group, the East Texas Communities Foundation. Whether the TAFF maintained ownership of the Ivanhoe is unclear.
The building and standards commission meeting will help determine what is needed to renovate the Ivanhoe, and the cost of renovation and maintenance. At that time, the building's owners, and the city, will determine the century-old building's fate.
“I would hate to see it turned into a parking lot,” Thacker said. “It has some historical character. Once it's torn down, it's lost forever.”