Old Red and White building renovations delayed

ajames@newsobserver.comMarch 19, 2013 

— A date has still not been set to begin construction on the dilapidated grocery store on Front Street, both an eye sore and a safety hazard.

Katie Smith, of Sneads Ferry, owns the property at 110 West Front Street and expressed plans to restore the building, a relief to town leaders who have been concerned about the future of the historic building since November. However, there have been delays to the plans and the town is again considering demolishing the property, since it is unsafe.

In a letter to Smith written in January, town manager Steve Biggs requested that Smith and her attorney Jeff Cook submit architectural plans and apply for a building permit for the site by March 15. They have not yet done so. Smith and her attorney have been in touch with town officials, and asked for more time to turn in their plans.

“I didn’t know it was in the state it is in,” said Smith. She said she has been sick for the past couple of weeks and has not be able to get things together in time for the town’s deadline. She said the property has only been back in her hands for a couple months and needs more time to make a plan for the building, but she says she also needs to be in good health. If allowed an extension, she says she would still like to renovate the building.

The pressure to eradicate the safety hazard may overweigh Smith’s desire, however.

“We remain concerned about the possibility that this hazard may persist,” Biggs wrote in the letter. The town praised Smith for being a “responsible property owner.” Smith, who owns several commercial properties across the state, has hired an architect and a general contractor to carry out the renovations. But the clock won’t begin ticking until the project begins, and there’s no date in sight for when that could happen since Smith hasn’t turned in any plans.

Town spokeswoman Stacy Beard said town officials should know by next week whether Smith plans to proceed with the renovations or if the town will have to demolish the building. They did not give her an exact extension date. Beard said Smith’s options at this point are to present the renovation plans, or the town will go through with partial demolition, or full demolition.

The historic building once housed the Red and White Grocery Store. It fell into disrepair and neglect when the owner at the time Robert Bryant battled health issues that made it impossible for him to maintain the space. The town considered demolishing the building when it was in Bryant’s hands because there was no hope of repair. Inspectors found problems with the roof, the awning over the front door and the heating and air conditioning systems in the building.

Then, Smith, a lienholder on the property, acquired the property in her name. Smith, who used to live in Clayton, said the building means something to her and she’d like to see it restored.

In Biggs’ letter to Smith, he wrote that the town is most concerned about the roof and ceiling of the building, as well as the existing canopy.

“We do not consider the canopy to be an aesthetic manner, but rather an urgent safety issue requiring immediate attention,” wrote Biggs. He wrote that the town would prefer that work on the canopy be done in advance of the larger project since it needs immediate attention.

Smith’s attorney could not be reached for comment.

James: 919-553-7234

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