FREEPORT – The future of Freeport’s old City Hall building is still in question, as city leaders search for potential investors.
Mayor Jodi Miller in May listed the renovation or demolition of the building as one of her top priorities shortly after being sworn in. Finding a developer to repurpose the structure or discovering a cost-effective way to bring the building down remains near the top of the list.
“It’s still a priority,” she said. “We just have to figure out what’s the best way to go and what the City Council wants to decide on the direction.”
The roughly 22,500-square-feet building at 230 W. Stephenson St. opened in 1899 and served as City Hall until 2011. City officials relocated to a rental space at 524 W. Stephenson St. due to disrepair and water damage largely attributed to a leaking roof on the old building. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016.
City Manager Lowell Crow listed the building for sale in May. Since then, four developers have toured the building, but because of a mezzanine that is detaching and folding in on itself, a roof in need of extensive repairs, a faulty boiler and deteriorating I-beams, no one has made the city an offer, he said.
“Unfortunately, none of them feel that, because the mezzanine deck has to be taken out of it, they can make the square footage to cost involved with it work,” Crow said.
Crow said some previous estimates have determined it would cost about $125 per square foot to renovate the building. The total cost was estimated around $2.5 million, but there have been no recent inspections to see if the number has changed.
Miller said there is no deadline for the city to determine whether it’s time to demolish the building, which would likely cost around $600,000.
“Obviously, we don’t have $600,000 in the budget right now to make that happen, plus we’re not ready to do that now anyway,” she said. “I don’t believe all our avenues for repurposing have been totally exhausted yet. We’re still getting some inquiries, so we don’t want to close that door yet.”
One way the city may be able to get the cost down is by having asbestos removal and demolition put into one bid instead of separately, Miller said. City officials have also had discussions with a developer who may be interested in demolishing the building at little or no cost if the salvage from the building would result in a profit.