BELLEFONTE — As fire officials work to determine what caused the fire this weekend that destroyed the Hotel Do De building, the fate of another historic downtown building damaged by fire remains in limbo.
Little has happened to the three-story Cadillac Building since a Christmas tree caught fire in a top-floor apartment in December 2009 and fast-moving flames burned through the structure, causing extensive damage. The roofless 28,800-square-foot building has sat vacant, its third floor exposed to the elements.
But theres been a buzz around the building in the past two months, and what has happened has put the property owners in the cross hairs of two governmental bodies the Bellefonte Borough Council, which finally could force them to tear down the building if its not stable enough, and Centre Countys commissioners, who have been offered the building and are analyzing whether to accept it.
We would be pleased if the building could be repaired, closed up, Borough Manager Ralph Stewart said Monday.
The property owners, Hank and Judy Haranin, of Spring Township, rehabbed what they could after the fire. They listed it for sale last year.
The best hope for the survival of the building is that a structural analysis finds the building to be safe and Centre County officials determine theres a use for it, such as office space or parking.
Were just trying to figure out what it can be used for, said Tim Boyde, the countys administrator. We dont know how viable that building is.
The county is spending $7,500 to do those analyses. The hope is to have the results of the studies by the beginning of October.
Meanwhile, the Borough Council has been moving separately on issues related to the building.
Council members heard good news in March an architecture firm from Lancaster wanted to buy the building and was looking to close on the sale in the summer. But a lack of downtown parking factored into the deal not working out.
Pressure intensified this summer as the Borough Council made the Haranins board up the windows of the building as a safety measure. The council also notified the Haranins by letter saying they had until Sept. 25 to demolish the building.
At last weeks council meeting, officials backed off the date, extending it until November.
Hank Haranin attended the council meeting but didnt speak. He declined to comment afterward.
Instead, the Borough Council heard from Erin Hammerstedt, an employee of Restoration Pennsylvania, a nonprofit firm that provides free technical help with historic building restoration. She has been working with the Haranins.
Hammerstedt told Borough Council that investors likely would not see much revenue if they bought and renovated the building, and thats why theres been a lack of interest in it.
The bottom line, she said, is that the Haranins want to find someone to take ownership of the building, and thats why they sought out the county as a suitor.
Theyre really hopeful. They really dont want to see the building demolished, Hammerstedt said Monday. What they really want is to find a new owner.
Although no one on Borough Council wants to see another historic building be torn down, council members see the Cadillac Building, as it stands now, as a public safety hazard. They fear another winter, with cold temperatures and snow, could further destabilize the building and risk harm to pedestrians, traffic and other nearby buildings.
That issue was debated at the meeting, which can be watched online at http:// bit.ly/PXxPe9 about 40 minutes in.
The council voted, albeit not unanimously, to wait to enforce the demolition notice until the county gets it back the feasibility study and structural analysis.
The Haranins now have until Nov. 19 before the borough enforces it.
Voting against the date change were council members Vana Dainty, who wanted something firmer and cited the potential hazards, and Walter Schneider, who wanted an agreement from the property owner if the county does not take possession.
Council President Frank Halderman was remiss the council waited almost three years before acting on the Cadillac Building.
I think the borough left the ball down here myself, as far as we didnt pursue this a lot sooner, he said at the meeting last week.
Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616. Follow him on Twitter @MikeDawsonCDT