BURLINGTON — The decision to demolish the Tama Complex in downtown Burlington was a matter of money for developer Doug Wells.
Wells, of Des Moines, told the Burlington Hawk Eye this week the “costs were just too high” to preserve the remaining structure, heavily damaged in an Aug. 4-5 fire.
“We looked at every possible way we could, and the costs just are prohibitive to save it,” he said.
The buildings, built at the corner of Jefferson and Third streets in 1896, were being remodeled for residential and commercial tenants, with an opening anticipated in summer 2019.
But the fire, the cause of which remains unknown, upended those plans.
Wells told the Burlington City Council in November he hoped to rebuild the $12.5 million Tama Complex using the remaining structure, but ultimately his decision would be based on the cost of demolition versus rehabilitation.
Even though the buildings will be demolished, Wells intends to build commercial and residential units on the site.
“That’s exactly what we want to see,” said Steve Frevert, executive director of Downtown Partners Inc. “It’s a really important corner of downtown. We’re losing a pair of landmark buildings, and they need to be replaced by something that will contribute to the streetscape downtown and the tax base.”
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Burlington City Council member John Billups said he hated “to see something with history come down, but with today’s technology, he can rebuild something with an old-school facade.”
Council member Matt Rinker said he, too, was “disappointed” to lose the old buildings but said the decision “probably makes better sense if you take a more objective approach.”
Eric Tysland, Burlington’s development and parks director, told the City Council this week that Wells was negotiating with G&B Construction to handle the demolition.
Wells has indicated the buildings could be torn down in three to five days.
Over its 122-year life, the Tama Building has seen its share of fire damage — in 1907, 1915 and 2010 — but this summer’s blaze will prove to be its last. The neighboring Chittenden and Eastman Commercial buildings — part of the Tama Complex — also will be razed