Correcting blight

Written by Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer May 30, 2012 12:41 pm

Environmental clean-up of the IOOF/State Theater building at 1106 Adams Ave. is slated to begin in June. The project, mounted by the City of La Grande’s Urban Renewal Agency, will abate asbestos and lead-based paint, and repair roofs. The work will be funded with the help of an Oregon Coalition Brownfields Cleanup Fund grant. BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH /The Observer
Environmental clean-up of the IOOF/State Theater building at 1106 Adams Ave. is slated to begin in June. The project, mounted by the City of La Grande’s Urban Renewal Agency, will abate asbestos and lead-based paint, and repair roofs. The work will be funded with the help of an Oregon Coalition Brownfields Cleanup Fund grant. BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH /The Observer

Clean-up effort aims to make neglected building marketable  

A bit of blight blemishing downtown La Grande will start going away in June, as work crews converge on the historic IOOF/State Theater Building on Adams Avenue to do a massive clean-up.

The building, also known as the Renegade building for a big sign left on its facade by a long departed business, has fallen into disrepair over the years and is chock-full of environmental hazards such as lead-based paint and asbestos.  

The City of La Grande’s Urban Renewal Agency, with help from an Oregon Coalition Brownfields Cleanup Fund grant, is correcting the problems.

“Blight is the best word,” said City Manager Robert Strope. “One of urban renewal’s primary objectives is to correct blight. You abate a problem in the hopes a property will find its way back into the market.”

The vacant property at 1106 Adams Ave. includes two separate brick and wood buildings. The former IOOF building on the west was built in 1896 and the State Theater Building adjacent on the east went up in 1910.

The IOOF building is three stories tall, with a full basement and two large ballrooms on the second and third floors. The two-story theater building has apartments in poor condition on the second floor.

An environmental assessment done for the state Department of Environmental Quality last year found high levels of asbestos and lead-based paint, plus miscellaneous hazardous substances. The report said the presence of those substances pose a threat to public health.

Strope said the Urban Renewal Agency acquired the building at little cost, though there were some back taxes to be paid. On completion of the environmental clean-up, a group of people holding liens on the property will have the option of buying the building back. The urban renewal agency would then recoup its investment.

A company called AMEC Environment and Infrastructure is managing the project, which will include removal of the environmental hazards, and repair of the roofs. A future phase will repair windows and provide some minor facade repairs.

“We’re not going in and re-doing the interior. We’re abating the hazards to put it back into a marketable condition,” Strope said.

Strope said the city is reviewing bids from companies that specialize in hazardous materials abatement.

The project will start following award of the bid.