Thursday, August 23, 2007
Garage facade may stand
By EILEEN ZAFFIRO
ORMOND BEACH — Bill Jones has finally secured what he says he needs to save the Ormond Garage: a demolition permit.
"I'm the last best shot this city has," to preserve the garage at 48 W. Granada Boulevard, Jones told city commissioners Tuesday night.
"I'm the only one who will try to save the building, or the flavor of it," he said. "I'm not against spending a reasonable, or even an unreasonable, amount of money to save the building."
Jones said the rear wall of the building might be beyond saving, thus the need for the demolition permit. But he hopes to keep the facade, and possibly two walls.
Jones has invested $10 million in downtown Ormond Beach buildings and built a reputation for restoring historic buildings.
He hopes to add the 1919 garage once used by racecar drivers to his list of refurbished buildings, but he has said he needs the permit to be able to remove faulty parts of the sandstone structure to save as much of it as he can.
"I don't want to be demonized as a man with a bulldozer. That's not what I'm about," Jones told city commissioners.
Jones was before the commissioners during a nearly three-hour hearing to decide whether the permit granted to him in June by the Historic Landmark Preservation Board should be revoked.
Bill Partington Sr., owner of a lock and key business next door to the garage, had appealed the board decision. Partington, father of City Commissioner Bill Partington Jr., argued the city should have done a more extensive review of the historic building.
One of the main blunders of the city was that it had told the Historic Landmark Preservation Board the building was constructed in 1945, contrary to various historical documents.
Partington said the board and the city both failed to do their jobs.
"This is not about Mr. Jones," Partington said. "He'll do the best job he can with this property. Procedures were not followed."
Robert Thames, chairman of the Historic Landmark Preservation Board, apologized to commissioners and residents for what he called a "bad decision" to issue the demolition permit. But he said the board relies heavily on city staff for background information, and he said staff should bear some of the responsibility for providing inaccurate information.
City Planning Director Ric Goss said his staff relied on the building date given to them by the property appraiser's office.
Partington noted that his objections had nothing to do with personal monetary gain, and that the property his business occupies would probably be worth more if the garage was torn down.
But the elder Partingon lost his plea for the city to slow down and take a closer look at the structure.
Commissioners voted 3-1 to let Jones keep his demolition permit.
City Commissioner Bill Partington abstained from the vote, and Commissioner Lori Gillooly was the lone no vote.
Gillooly had tried to get the decision put on hold for 30 days to allow a state historical official to survey the building.
Jones plans to open a restaurant on the old garage site with a Birthplace of Speed theme.
Jones said the restaurant is part of a bigger dream he has to make the downtown thrive again. Part of that plan includes a landmark restaurant that would be the only remaining structure directly linked to early 1900s beach racing.
“Why do I want to be the idiot who razes that building and puts up some Mickey Mouse place?” Jones asked.
Jones was unable to say how much of the structure will remain standing. Engineers he hired, as well as an engineer the city hired, both said the building is in extremely rough shape.
“Basically it’s a building falling down around itself,” said Jones’ attorney, Chobee Ebbets. “The issue is not that it’s 88 years old or that it’s historic. It’s a structural disaster. The building is unsafe.”
Jones asked commissioners to trust him.
“I love that building more than you realize,” he said. “You’re not going to regret this. I promise you.”