Neighboring Law Firm Shows Interest in Lair Building as City Forced to Make Additional Repairs

By Jeremy Coumbes on September 14, 2022 at 3:55pm

The fate of a downtown Jacksonville building that suffered a partial collapse last fall might be getting closer to a resolution, but that won’t be without more work on the City’s part.

The Jacksonville City Council approved some additional repairs that are needed to the Lair Building located at 234 West State Street. The City of Jacksonville remains in litigation with the owners of the building that includes liens due to the extensive work the city has had to foot the bill on after the rear portion of the structure collapsed during the overnight hours of October 12th.

So far, the city has had to pay to tear down and remove the rear third of the building that collapsed, construction of a new load-bearing rear wall, as well as strengthening the footings, and filling in the basement area.

Community Development Director Bryan Nyberg says the current repairs needed are minor in comparison. “The work that needs to be done is temporary roof work to stop the bleeding so to speak. Because it is still leaking a little bit, and it wouldn’t be a new roof it would just be a temporary fix, and then also boarding up the windows. The pigeons are still getting in so we want to stop that and from any more damage happening to the building.”

The temporary roof repairs are estimated to cost $9,000 while sealing the upper floor windows will cost an estimated $2,500.00.

The collapse also damaged the Morgan County Public Defender’s Office to the north and a portion of the Rammelkamp Bradney Law Office to the east. Rammelkamp Bradney has expressed interest in acquiring the building.

Koert Brown with Rammelkamp said during workshop discussion Monday night that the law firm would like to expand their office space into the adjoining first floor of the Lair Building, however, he says they would like to reach an agreement of some kind with the city, citing an extensive gap that has opened between the two structures that will need to be addressed before winter.

We have the desire to try and help the downtown area to try to improve these buildings. We’ve got quotes for what it’s going to be to try and fix it and those quotes have come in very high. Over the past year, there’s been inflation and things like that that have driven prices up very very high.

It’s one of those things, we’ve got our application in now and we don’t know what will happen from there, but really we just can’t let another building fall down on us. It actually fell down on my office and a couple of the other attorney’s offices. So we are hopeful we can get something done.”

Brown says the law firm filed a TIF Grant application for the property on Monday in an effort to help offset some of the costs needed to get the building back in a usable state. “In the current TIF application that we put on file, we requested 50% of funds from the city. We currently think that there could be around a $500,000.00 gap and the funding for it.

We’re willing to put a pretty significant amount of money in, but when you see these million-dollar projects out there it just makes it difficult to come around to that and make it economically viable. So we’re hopeful that we can get something done but, I don’t know.”

Nyberg said during the discussion that the Lair Building does need extensive work, however, it is structurally sound, and tearing down the building would cost an exorbitant amount as the footings actually help carry the weight of the Rammelkamp building so extensive work would need to be undertaken to shore up the side wall should the Lair be removed.

He says there has been a good deal of interest in the building over the past year since the city had to get involved and right now Rammelkamp seems to be the front runner. Nyberg says in the end, having the long-vacant building back as usable space remains the ultimate goal.

There were three different parties at the beginning when this all started. We haven’t gotten a whole lot back from them recently, but the end goal is to get somebody in that building and for the city to save that building. It is on the national registry for historic buildings so that’s been very important and to get that building back into productive use has kind of been the goal from day one.”

the current owners of the building were financially unable to make the property a non-hazard following the collapse and signed a consent to demo with the City of Jacksonville for the rear portion following the collapse.

Nyberg says the current pending litigation would have to be resolved and in the meantime, the board will review the TIF application and continue the discussion with Rammelkamp Bradney on the law firm’s plans for acquiring and renovating the structure.