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City Proceeding With Plans to Raze Granary

Editor’s Note:  This article came out one day before the Sturgeon Bay Historical Society announced that a donor had come forward with $1.25 million to restore the granary. For an updated article, click here>>

Preservationists have funds, proposal for restoration

Just two months after the historic Teweles and Brandeis Granary on Sturgeon Bay’s west waterfront was added to the Wisconsin registry of Historic Places, Sturgeon Bay Fire Chief Tim Dietman has ordered the building be razed.

Dietman ordered the demolition based on an inspection of the building by him and city staff between Oct. 13 and Oct. 17. That inspection determined that the building is moving, and is thus “detrimental to the public health and safety.” Dietman said the building’s dilapidated condition and location could endanger other buildings, persons, or property. Dietman ordered that the building be razed by the city within 30 days of the Oct. 17 order.

Dietman informed Mayor Thad Birmingham in a letter Oct. 13 that he had received complaints that the Granary building was possibly moving and that metal siding on the building was bulging “from people who see the structure on a regular basis and feel is has moved in the last strong winds, and appears to be leaning to the west more than it has in the past.”

Dietman said he had photos taken with a drone, and had it inspected by Sturgeon Bay City Engineer Chad Shefchik and engineer Brian Spetz to map any movement of the structure.

The city has not released what those inspections showed, or how any measurements compare to previous evaluations of the structure by engineers hired by the city. Under Wisconsin state statute 101.14 (1)(a), the fire department is given the power to order repair or removal of structures determined to endanger public health and safety.

Dietman first ordered the structure fenced off as a public health hazard May 24, 2017. In August, the common council voted to raze the structure no sooner than Jan. 1, to give preservationists an opportunity to create a plan of use for the Granary and raise funds to rehabilitate the structure.

The granary building could be placed on the National Register of Historic Places in November of 2017. Photo by Jacob Dannhausen-Brun.

Since that time, the Sturgeon Bay Historical Society (SBHS) has been raising money to stabilize the structure, while other groups have been formulating plans for future use. The SBHS announced Oct. 18 that it has the $150,000 that engineers have said is required to stabilize the structure.

“The fate of a historic, 116-year old icon of Sturgeon Bay should not be decided over a weekend,” an SBHS statement read.

A Center For The Arts (CFTA) exploratory committee said it has spent four months developing a proposal that would create a theater for the Third Avenue Playhouse, second location for the Miller Art Museum, brew pub, and a three-season space for events, exhibits and lectures.

“Our committee believes that the Granary is a treasure to our community because it symbolizes the proud efforts of past generations to till the land and distribute the fruits of their labor around the country,” read a CFTA statement. “It symbolizes the agricultural foundation of our community, and with it the spirit of the people that settled this land.”

The raze order came just two days before the CFTA was to present its draft proposal to city officials.

As of Oct. 24, the city is proceeding with plans to comply with the raze order, soliciting demolition proposals, with plans for the Common Council to review them at its Nov. 7 meeting.

“SBHS would like to use its private funds to have MBJ [Meyer Borgman Johnson] come and re-assess the Granary’s structure and provide detailed findings by their structural engineering team to the fire chief,” said Nancy Aten. “If the assessment indicates, and we believe it will, that the Granary is still basically structurally sound, we hope that would lead to the raze order being rescinded, and the Council voting to allow SBHS to spend private funds to complete the stabilization and repair.”

SBHS is encouraging residents to attend the Oct. 30 Historic Preservation Committee meeting at City Hall at 7 pm.

The Granary building has been the subject of much debate in the city since the city began planning for the redevelopment of the west waterfront between the Door County Maritime Museum and the Oregon Street Bridge in 2010.

In 2013 the city ordered a structural analysis report from Meyer Borgman Johnson. That report found the building was a good candidate for adaptive reuse.

“Based on the information gathered during the site visit report and the subsequent calculations, it is our conclusion that the existing elevator is in generally good condition and retains sufficient capacity to support this intended use, with some modifications,” the firm’s analysts concluded.

The building has been neglected since that report was issued, leading to further deterioration.

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