Safety Repairs to Lair Building Entering Final Stage

By Jeremy Coumbes on March 31, 2022 at 11:32am

Work will soon resume on a downtown Jacksonville building that suffered a collapse last year.

The City of Jacksonville has been on the hook for repairs to make the Lair Building safe since a portion of the roof collapsed overnight in mid-October. The rear portion of the building that faced North West Street had to be torn down completely after engineers found the structure was not safe due to the buildings around it.

Community Development Director Brian Nyberg says the city will soon begin the final stage of making the rest of the structure safe. On Monday the City Council accepted a bid from building contractor Neff-Colvin to complete the remaining work. Nyberg says the city has been working with Neff-Colvin since not long after the collapse.

“This last part of it will be buttoning up or closing those holes into the basement. Waterproofing the basement so we don’t get any problems from the basement of the Lair Building, and then pouring a footing and a block wall just below the fill line. So hopefully when somebody wants to do something with this building that block wall will be ready to go up the rest of the way.

Because you don’t really want to do anything [more] not knowing where the openings are going to be if there’s going to be windows if there’s going to be stair openings so we don’t want to do that. We want to wait until somebody has a plan for it. But this will be the last portion to get that building hopefully into productive use.”

The area where the smaller portion of the Lair Building was torn down will see the area filled in where the basement used to be. Nyberg says the area could be used for anything from green space to parking or even a garage.

Nyberg says he sees good things being possible for the Lair going forward, but right now it still has an uncertain future.

“We want to leave those options open for the best fit for the building. Which right now the same owners own that building. That is in litigation. We don’t know what’s going to happen really, hopefully, something good.

My vision with that is I saw so much potential and opportunity that as city officials, or custodians of the city, it’s our job to save that historic building, and I think we have. We’ve had a structural assessment of the building from Benton and Associates, and the building is structurally sound. But it needs a new roof, it needs new windows, and it needs somebody who wants to do something good with the building.”

Nyberg says depending on what kind of a plan someone would have for the Lair Building going forward, some TIF monies could possibly be available to help offset some of the future renovation costs.

In October, Nyberg said the city would be forced to place a lien on the rear portion of the property after the owners told city officials they were “financially unable to make the property a non-hazard”.

The owners reportedly did sign a consent to demolition after the building was deemed unsafe due to the danger of a secondary collapse at the time.

Nyberg could not comment on the current status of the litigation between the city and the building owners during our recent interview.