The fate of the Ivanhoe building in downtown Palestine will be decided next month, the city's Building and Standards commission decided Thursday
Meantime, commission members ordered the building's owners – local philanthropic organization the Texas Area Fund Foundation – to field bids on capping loose bricks to prevent them from falling from the second story.
Commissioners met to discuss whether to allow the building to be renovated, or to have it demolished.
The Ivanhoe, built in 1913, has been the subject of numerous resident complaints over the past year, after second-story bricks were found on the ground, and photos showed the building's facade leaning into the street.
Architect Mark Thacker – hired and paid by the TAFF to inspect the Ivanhoe – concluded the supposed leaning was an optical illusion; the several fallen bricks, however, scattered about the building's base were not.
Grapeland resident Jack Coleman, who owns property in Palestine, has been an outspoken critic of the Ivanhoe's condition, using photographs to highlight structural failures.
“The mortar is all but gone along the top,” he said. “The bricks that are falling are 'slag-bricks,' made with metal; when they fall, they break up the sidewalk, but they're so hard, they remain undamaged.”
Coleman, who has filed numerous complaints about the Ivanhoe in the past year, told the commission the last thing he wants is for the building to be torn down. He just wants TAFF to comply with the building engineer's report.
“I love the building,” he said.
The engineer's report cited, among other renovations, a possible need to cap the top of the structure to prevent bricks from falling.
TAFF member Jean Mollard said a metal cap donation from Vulcraft, a steel products company, had been canceled.
Additional attempts at capping the structure were not made, Mollard said. TAFF is attempting to sell the building, and a cap could interfere with a sale.
Other issues with the Ivanhoe, Mollard said, such as its openness to the public, and hazardous glass, metal, and concrete debris, have been taken care of by the volunteer efforts of local residents and organizations.
“The city of Palestine has not contributed a penny,” she said. “No city workers have helped in this project; it has all been done through the TAFF and through volunteers.”
The commission, satisfied the TAFF is working to abide by the suggestions of the building inspector's report, still remained wary of the falling bricks.
Commission member Keith Cole asked interim Development Services Director Mark Miears if the city would bear any liability if someone were struck by falling bricks.
Although Miears was uncertain, and said he'd have to defer to the city attorney, TAFF President Jackson Hanks told the commission the building was covered by TAFF's liability insurance.
The commission agreed to table the decision on the Ivanhoe for 30 days. The TAFF, it ruled, must entertain bids to cap the structure in the interest of public safety.
At next month's Building and Standards Commission meeting, the TAFF must present the bids, as well as a copy of its liability insurance, to commissioners.
Coleman said he couldn't be happier with the decision.
“It's what I've been asking about all along,” he said. “It's a beautiful building; I would hate to see it torn down.”