BERLIN — The city of Berlin will seek bids to demolish two downtown buildings that have become eyesores and pose potential safety hazards.
The former Woolworth building at 121 Main St. and former Princess Theater at 25 Green Square have both fallen into city ownership through nonpayment of property taxes.
At one time, both buildings housed thriving downtown businesses but both have now been vacant for at least eight years.
Requests for proposals will go out shortly, and the city hopes to have bids back by the end of February.
The Princess Theater was constructed in 1914 and was used as movie theater until it was heavily damaged by fire in 2013. It has been vacant since that time.
According to an August 2019 assessment report on the property prepared for the city by HEB Engineers, some limited repairs were made in 2015 but were never completed, and some time in the winter of 2019, part of the roof collapsed onto the floor below.
Also, the report noted, “some of the bricks along the top of the front wall of the building were leaning toward the street, so the sidewalk in front of the building was closed to pedestrians.”
Last week, City Manager James Wheeler showed the city council pictures taken of the upper northern front corner of the Princess Theater building. The city had Jason Barry of Vaillancourt Electric go up in a bucket truck to examine the structure.
Wheeler said Barry felt that removing the loose bricks would make the structure more unstable.
The city currently has the front of the building cordoned off.
Anticipating demolition costs will be high, Wheeler said he is checking to see if the city’s liability insurance will cover some of the cost. He also is checking with the state Department of Environmental Services to see if the city can use some state revolving loan fund money it has received to tear down buildings with flat roofs for the Princess Theater building.
“We really need to try and get this building down,” he said.
Mayor Paul Grenier said he feels the demolition of the Princess Theater building is a higher priority that the Woolworth building although he indicated he would like to get both down.
The city took possession of the former Woolworth building and turned it over to the Berlin Industrial Development and Park Authority to redevelop.
The authority has looked at various options for the building over the years.
Last fall, plans to develop a health and wellness center there fell through when the cost to demolish the building and put up a 39,900-square-foot building was estimated at approximately $9 million.
The estimated cost of the project exceeded what the proposed tenants felt they could afford for rental rates.