There’s no love lost for the former Department of Social Services building.
The Galesi Group, which now owns the historic building on Nott Street, is fully in support of the City Council’s proposal to demolish it. Galesi COO David Buicko said demolition would be much cheaper, and easier, than rehabilitating it.
And, he added, the city wouldn’t lose much.
“Do I think it’s a beautiful building? No,” he said.
It was built as an elementary school in 1875, with wide hallways and fire-suppressing asbestos in the walls. Turning it into an apartment building would be so expensive the Galesi Group needed a $1.3 million grant from the city just to break even on the project, Buicko said. And even then, the best he could do was 14 apartments in a 22,000 square-foot building, he said.
“The hallways were just huge,” he said. “These walls have asbestos on them so you can’t really move them.”
Starting over would be better.
“We’ll make it more functional,” he said. “In all honesty, why ignore the obvious?”
On Monday, City Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo proposed demolishing the building rather than borrowing $1.3 million from the federal government to rehabilitate it. Demolition would still cost about $500,000 because of the asbestos in the building.
Council members seemed to generally support Perazzo’s proposal.
The city is applying for a $3 million demolition loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. To be approved, the loan application must include plans for some rebuilding, city officials said. They said they believed the loan would be approved if Galesi wrote a letter committing to an apartment project on the site.
Of the $3 million, $2.5 million would be used to demolish mostly residential blight throughout the city. The rest of the loan would be used to tear down the DSS building.