October 12, 2010
Owner plans to fix ‘leaning tower’
Project would repair vacant McGraw building hit by flooding
McGRAW — The owner of the downtown McGraw building nicknamed the “leaning tower” by residents plans to have the foundation and overall structure strengthened before winter.
Marc Speary of Rochester said he has not seen the 28 Main St. building since more of its foundation broke away during the Sept. 23 flooding on Mosquito Creek.
He said he gave the Village Board and the state Department of Environmental Conservation a list in September of work he planned to do on the vacant three-story building.
The Village Board discussed his list and possible timeline at its meeting last week.
Speary said the DEC gave him permission to proceed with work, after reviewing ways he planned to put a concrete foundation several inches thick in front of the inner stone foundation, with as little impact as possible to the creek bed itself. The building has two stone foundations, although flooding from the creek has eaten away the outer foundation.
The DEC has not issued a written permit yet but Speary expects one. John Daniels, village code officer, said he will issue a building permit when the DEC says it is satisfied.
“I’m going to take care of it and put it back together,” Speary said. “It’s a matter of being booked solid in my contracting business and not having time to get to it until November.”
Speary said he might make a trip sooner, given how much of the foundation on the creek side is crumbled and the fact the village has put yellow caution tape around the site to keep pedestrians back.
Village officials have been worried that the brick building will collapse this winter, as it has been steadily weakening.
Speary said the foundation is made with two layers of stone, with 20 feet of the outer layer worn away when he purchased the building in October 2009. He said a dead tree floating down the creek put a hole 3 feet by 3 feet in the foundation last March.
He has already installed an interior footer and floor joists as new support. He had planned to remove the outer stone foundation by Nov. 7, frame the foundation’s exterior form for the concrete the following week, then pour the concrete on Nov. 20 to 22.
The building slants a little and has since the 1930s, Village Historian Mary Kimberly said, although Speary said its upper two floors are actually fairly level. Part of the downtown row of buildings west of Mosquito Creek, it has been mostly vacant in the past decade after housing a pizza business and, before that, Cady Hulbert’s grocery store, Kimberly said.
It was constructed in 1906, along with the other buildings on the block, after fire destroyed the downtown. The bridge next to it was built in 1958 by the Army Corps of Engineers and state Department of Transportation, along with the concrete foundation for the bank building — now China Wok restaurant — across the creek.
Speary said he purchased the building for $1,300 from Cortland County at auction, after the county foreclosed on the property from previous owner Walter Rusyniak for back taxes.
Using connections from his contracting business, Speary expects to spend only about $80,000 to fix up the building.
He said one upper floor has three bedrooms down one side and a living/dining area measuring 18 feet by 38 feet, constructed by a previous owner. He said it might make a multi-person apartment.
Speary said he would find a commercial or retail tenant for the first floor.
“I thought it had potential,” he said. “I’ve done this with two buildings in downtown Rochester.”
Daniels said he is skeptical that Speary can renovate the building, including electrical and plumbing systems and the roof, for less than $250,000.
The roof is flat and made with pressed tin, a method used in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
“The roof has water damage and he (Speary) might find more to be replaced than he thinks,” Daniels said. “I just want to make sure this is done right.”
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