The wall of the building on Forest Avenue left exposed by the demolition of the old opera house will soon have a new face, the Great Bend City Council learned Tuesday night.
Andy Mingenback, president of Brentwood Builders of Great Bend and owner of the structure, gave a report on the status of the party wall that once separated his building from the one torn down last October. He gave his plans for repairing what is now exposed brick, plaster and stone.
Mingenback said he has been in contact with MKEC Engineering Consultants of Wichita and now has a plan. He said his crews will construct a structural steel wall inside of the existing wall using steel studs.
Then, they will raze the old exterior stone wall. The new wall will be coated and sided, and become the basis for a new exterior for the building.
He hopes to get started in October.
The building, which was located at Williams and Forest, was also known as the Pitcock Building because it was owned by David and Barbara Pitcock, who still own the property.
The cost of the work was covered by the city and charged back to the Pitcock’s taxes.
It wasn’t just a matter of tearing the building down, city officials said. The adjoining building shared a wall with Mingenback’s building which could have also been damaged during the razing. It needed to be repaired to maintain its structural integrity.
Officials said the opera house was originally built as a free-standing structure. The buildings adjoining it were built up against it, making the shared wall a party wall, which made the demolition extra tricky.
The building had been condemned after portions of it collapsed in December 2013, forcing a dance studio and a resident to relocate. In March of last year, the Council set deadlines for either preservation or demolition.
In February of last year, officials prepared the paperwork to find the building “an unsafe and dangerous structure.” They said they had been in contact with the owners, but had a difficult time reaching them.
The issue stretches back over three years. The city sent its first complaint letter to the owners in March 2012 after receiving an engineer’s report from MKEC Engineering Consultants based on a November 2011 inspection.
Schneider said he received the report because the owners would not respond to the MKEC’s concerns about “structural deficiencies” in the building. MKEC attempted to contact the owners via mail and phone.
A second complaint was sent on Oct. 25, 2013, after more bricks had fallen. Attempts to reach the Pitcocks were again unsuccessful, officials said.
On Oct. 31, 2013, the city received a letter from David Pitcock.
In the letter, Pitcock said he was considering legal action. But, they had done nothing with the structure and no action has been taken.
Dating to the 1880s, the building originally served as an opera house, according to the Barton County Historical Society. Over the decades, it has also housed numerous businesses, including a furniture store, and offices.
The society has campaigned to save the building in the past.