Historic City News reported on July 4th that the City of St Augustine had been notified of concerns over the stability of the 118-year-old commercial building at 9 Aviles Street. We reached out to David Birchim, Director of the Planning and Building Department, after we received calls from an owner and two tenants of nearby properties who expressed fear that the landmark building might go the way of the 1804 Don Pedro Fornell house on Spanish Street in September 2014.
Our call was returned by Building Inspector Randy Hurry, who reported that the City had approved the removal of the gable hip roof with composite shingles, followed by steps to stabilize and remodel the structure. The City made assurances that throughout the project, officials from the Public Works Department as well as the Planning and Building Department, were “meeting regularly with merchants and property owners in the area to keep them fully apprised of the project”. Apparently, City Manager John Regan wasn’t managing that aspect of this high-profile project very well; because, those were the very people calling Historic City News for assistance.
Only a few months earlier, on December 27, 2017, the four retail stores were purchased by Red Moon Properties, LLC, for $490,000. The quaint and distinguishable stucco-covered structure was built in 1900 and totaled about 2,500 square-feet on the city’s oldest street; formerly known as Hospital Street. As is common when new owners buy into the historic preservation districts, they meet with resistance to modern plans that involve the outward appearance of their buildings. The City’s architectural review board had some issues with how the windows facing Aviles Street were to be replaced.
There were questions about the integrity of the building, resulting in construction delays. Upon further investigation, the contractor and city officials determined that the building was “unsalvageable and needed to be completely removed”. It is always easier to build new than to restore and retrofit an aging structure built over 100 years ago — ala the Fornell House.
Once the fate of the building was determined, the property owner, area businesses, and the city officials say they moved “in a coordinated manner” to complete the project “as quickly and with as little disruption as possible”. The demolition of the building began on Monday, July 23rd, with a permit from the city that required the work be completed by 5:00 p.m. today. Pedestrian access was maintained, and area businesses remained open even though the street was closed to vehicles for the last four weeks.
The demolition of 9 Aviles Street was completed Tuesday and the street reopened to vehicular traffic; including sightseeing vehicles and horse drawn carriages. One goal was to have Aviles Street reopened in time for the First Friday Art Walk, an event held throughout the city on the first Friday of each month that is of importance to Aviles Street businesses. The site of the former building will be fenced off until construction of a new building begins.