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DanMar building begins partial demolition

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HISTORIC BUILDING: The outside of the old DanMar apartment building located at 239 W. Third St., Marion.
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DEMOLITION TIME: Gary Masiongale, owner and president of Dave’s Excavating, stands outside the DanMar apartment building. The building is undergoing a partial demolition, which is expected to be completed within the next two weeks, according to Masiongale.

By Clay Winowiecki - cwinowiecki@chronicle-tribune.com

The DanMar apartment building in Marion’s historic downtown district is set to begin a partial demolition today.

The building’s exterior north and west walls will remain standing, while the opposing walls and much of the interior will be gutted. The building, located at 239 W. Third St., has been in the partial demolition process for around one and a half years.

“A lot of time has been spent creating the retention wall so the rest of the building won’t fall down,” said Executive Director Jacquie Dodyk of the Affordable Housing and Community Development Corporation, the organization that owns the building. “We won’t know if it will work or not until (the demolition is) done.”

According to Dodyk, the nonprofit is trying to keep as much of the historic structure as possible.

However, only knocking down parts of the building is a monumental task.

“Just going into that building from the onset was scary,” Dodyk said. “We had to plan how they would get started with things and not have the whole building coming down on the workers. It’s very different when you’re trying to keep part of a building, while at same time giving it a heck of a punch.”

Another challenging aspect of the demolition is taking out the back wall, which is hanging inches from a dead power line.

According to Gary Masiongale, owner and president of Dave’s Excavating, the contractor doing the demolition work, the back wall has been slowly coming down with the help of a small backhoe, a hammer and an air compressor.

“It’s tedious,” Masiongale said. “You have to be very careful and you’re sitting on the edge of your seat.”

Masiongale hopes to have the building knocked down and cleaned up in two weeks. To help, he’s using a 65-foot long reach excavator.

He added that the best way to demolish a building was “a small piece at a time.”

For Dodyk, keeping the historic character of downtown Marion is paramount.

“We’ve had good feedback from county historian Bill Munn and others,” she said. “In the long term all of this extra work will pay off because we’ll have the building that still looks like circa 1900s.”

Keeping the right parts of the building propped up hasn’t been cheap, either.

Dodyk estimates by the end of the partial demolition costs will run over $400,000, with the demolition alone costing around $370,000.

“I’ve payed probably 30 to 40% of the (total) cost (so far),” she said.

The project was awarded a $350,000 grant by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the rest of the funding will come from the nonprofit.

The project is nearing the year and a half point. According to Dodyk, nearly a year was spent debating if the organization should tear down the whole building.

As part of the grant’s stipulations, the nonprofit agreed to keep part of the building upright.

So what’s next for the building once it’s demolished? That’s still up in the air, Dodyk said.

“Technically it’ll be a green space for a couple of years,” she said.

The nonprofit is deciding if they want to renovate what’s left of the building, which is a topic they hope to explore with future partners who might be interested in the historical building.

“And are better at renovating old buildings than we are,” Dodyk joked.

One option Dodyk spoke of was creating market-rate apartments with commercial space on the bottom. Previously, the building’s lower floor was used for businesses, such as Ferguson Financial.

“This is all new territory for us,” Dodyk added. “We can’t do it on our own, so I’m shopping for partners.”

Next door to the old DanMar building is the old Cecilian apartment building, which Affordable Housing also owns.

While Dodyk would like to renovate the building, this is a project she doesn’t expect to start this year.

“It’s still the same configuration of apartments it had when it was originally built (in the early 1900s),” she said.

Inside, the apartments are large and have fireplaces, but the only inhabitants are pigeons and hawks.

The nonprofit actively works to limit water damage, but that’s all it’s been able to do.

“There’s (still) real potential to restore the apartments,” she said. “(We could) clean her out and put up everything new on the inside.”

Affordable Housing is excited to be part of the effort to revitalize downtown.

“We’re very encouraged by the momentum of Main Street Marion and the Downtown Roundtable (meetings) to get this downtown revitalization plan in place,” Dodyk said. “(Affordable Housing) can be real players in that revitalization in downtown.”