Danville preservation officials pleased with restoration work on 311 West Main

Published 7:01 am Friday, September 22, 2017

Architectural Heritage Board members were visibly happy Wednesday with news concerning 311 W. Main St., a historic building in downtown Danville that has been condemned for around seven years and seemed likely to be demolished or even bring down neighboring buildings with it on more than one occasion.

Whether the building was ever actually in danger of collapse is a point different sides have argued numerous times, but Wednesday’s report from the newest owner of the building, Tim Montgomery, was full of positive news about the building’s future that AHB members have been seeking for years.

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“We’re doing a lot of work on the building,” Montgomery said, explaining how a third-floor wall that was leaning has been taken down and work is continuing on a back wall that suffered from “utter deterioration.”

Montgomery came before the AHB for approval to put new windows in the building. The AHB governs what can and cannot be done to building facades inside the city’s historic overlay district, in order to maintain historic integrity.

Montgomery said he plans to have four apartments in the upper floors of the building, which is what those floors were originally used for. The apartments will have first-floor entrances on the front and back of the building; and one of the apartments on the back side of the building will have a recessed deck.

“If it was appropriate, I think we would hug you,” AHB member Julie Wagner told Montgomery.

“I’ve already hugged him,” Code Enforcement Officer Tom Broach said.

Wagner presented findings of fact on Montgomery’s proposed windows, stating that while technically, the windows do not meet standards for historic window replacements, the historic value of the back of the building, where the windows would be located, is “gone.”

“Normally we would never approve these (kinds of windows), but we’re not dealing with a historic, front-facing facade, so I feel like — based on my research — we could consider them in this case,” Wagner said.

The AHB voted unanimously to approve the findings of fact and award Montgomery a certificate of appropriateness for his project.

“We’ll line up and give you a hug on your way out,” AHB Chair Tom Tye joked.

Montgomery thanked the AHB for the approval.

“Friday, you should be able to walk in the front door, walk all the way through the building and walk out the back door safely,” he said.

Montgomery said he plans to return to the AHB in October for approval to install new doors.

Efforts to do something about the deteriorating building received a push in April, when the AHB asked the Danville City Commission to take action. A letter from the AHB to the commission stated that the board had worked since 2010 with property owners and code enforcement to “resolve the building’s blight and safety issues, as well as damage happening to adjacent building.”

“311 W. Main shares a common wall on both the east and west side, which means that two other properties could potentially be lost if this building is demolished,” the April letter warned. “There is evidence of mold, cracking of plaster/brick, bowing walls and structural instability on adjacent buildings, which lends to our concern that someday soon, we could potentially lose two or three significant buildings in our historic district.”

The owner of the building prior to Montgomery, Ann Yager Hamlin McCrosky, said in May she considered the condemnation of the building “kind of illegal” and contrary to the idea that the building was falling down, “the structure, especially the front of the building is crazy strong.”

In June, Codes Enforcement Officer Broach issued a notice of inspection that stated a portion of the second floor of the building had collapsed due to water damage. “Due to the damage, the Danville Fire Chief Ken Pflug closed the structure to anyone being in (the) building because of the dangerous situation,” the notice read.

McCrosky said the reports of a collapse from the city were “not a good portrayal of what happened” and the portion of floor that fell in was “unoriginal” to the building and slated for removal anyway. The public characterization of what happened as a “collapse” pushed McCrosky to sell the building to Montgomery at the end of June, she said.

In early September, Codes Enforcement Director Bridgette Lester told the city commission Montgomery was replacing the building’s roof, ending the problem of leaks into the building that had caused damage for years. “We are very pleased with the progress so far,” she said.

Montgomery also owns the building at 222 W. Main St., a similarly condemned property that is currently mired in a lawsuit over whether the city caused power lines to the building to be cut.