By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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Demolition of two charred North Forks Avenue buildings in the city's core could begin simultaneously a week before Christmas, and the site should be leveled by mid-January, City Attorney Rod Fleck said this week.
A bid for demolition of the city-owned property occupied by the former International Order of Odd Fellows hall is scheduled to be awarded at the regular City Council meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 500 E. Division St.
Teardown of the remains will begin about Dec. 17, with completion expected by mid-January.
The IOOF hall and an adjacent unoccupied store building burned in an early morning fire Oct. 29 that has been attributed by federal authorities to an electrical malfunction.
No one was injured in the blaze.
The IOOF hall was occupied by the Rainforest Art Center, which had art classes and plays, and La Tienda, a Latin American-themed store.
Next door, the former Dazzled by Twilight souvenir store, devoted to the Forks-set books and movies, also was destroyed in the blaze.
Fleck said questions appear to be dissipating over whether the IOOF hall and the ex-Twilight store, owned by Alaska Financial Co. of Anchorage, will be demolished in tandem or separately.
Company President Charles Preston confirmed Thursday that Alaska Financial intends to have the site demolished at the same time as the city-owned property.
“That is our intention,” he said.
“We are working closely with the city.”
Alaska Financial had put the property up for sale before the fire.
“Getting that site cleared up is of importance to them, too,” Fleck said of Alaska Financial.
The company bought the property, which at times in its lengthy history was the Fern Gallery and Olympic Pharmacy, in a foreclosure sale.
“They would still like some additional return on their investment dollars,” Fleck said.
Fleck said city officials did not realize Alaska Financial was a small company.
“Once we understood that, that explained why they were trying to sort things out, kind of in the same manner we are,” he said.
The former IOOF hall and its property were insured by the city for $3.7 million.
Determining the amount of compensation the city will receive will take longer than demolition.
“The site will be cleared, and then the process of taking a deep breath and awaiting the discussion with the insurance company as we do so will occur,” Fleck said.
“You are working toward an agreed number. That give-and-take process will probably consume most of January,” he added.
“If we rebuild, this will be the dollar amount they will rebuild up to.”
A public process will begin in late January or early February that will include community meetings to determine the aspects of the site that were important to people and how those features might be incorporated in anything new that is built there, Fleck said.
“There are folks interested in ensuring there's some business component, some arts component, some community component to it, but that's a process that will have to sort itself out in 2013.”
Fleck said a potluck is being planned for January for residents to reminisce about what the former IOOF hall meant to them, much in the manner of a celebration of life for a deceased person.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.