American Building

The American Building sits on Central Avenue in downtown Coos Bay. In May, several loose bricks fell from the century-old structure, forcing the city to cordon off a section of the street along with So It Goes coffee house and American Family Insurance for three days.

Bethany Baker, The World

COOS BAY — More than a month has passed since So It Goes coffee house and American Family Insurance on Central Avenue in downtown Coos Bay were forced to close their doors for three days due to issues with the American Building.

In May, the threat of several loose bricks falling from the century-old structure forced the city to cordon off a section of Central Avenue and the two businesses.

One of the days the businesses were closed fell on the weekly farmers market, which was particularly difficult to stomach for So It Goes.

The coffee house's owners, John Beane and Daneal Doerr, said the time spent closed cost them around $3,000.

“It’s kind of hard to tell how much we would have made or lost,” Beane said, adding that market days were usually the best for sales by a wide margin.

The American Building’s owner, Greg Flanders, who lives out-of-area, offered to recoup So It Goes' owners three days worth of rent, or roughly $88.

The World was unable to contact Flanders by the time this article was published.

Coos Bay City Manager Rodger Craddock said the city sent a letter to Flanders shortly after being alerted to the loose bricks and demanded prompt action.

Flanders hired a consulting engineer and spoke with property manager Brandon Thurman, of E.L. Edwards Realty.

Craddock said the “bulging and loose facade” on the building was then temporarily secured by contractors with pieces of plywood and two-by-fours.

E.L. Edwards’ owner Kris Thurman declined to comment.

Brandon Thurman did not return a call requesting comment by the time this article was published.

In the letter to Flanders, the city requested that a long-term solution for the structure was needed, as well as a deeper investigation into the building’s facade.

“It will be necessary for you to have a qualified engineer or architect do a thorough investigation (structural survey) of the building facade and prepare a plan for the appropriate course of action and repairs to prevent failure of the facade and ensure the safety of the public,” the letter said.

City staff wrote that the building needed an engineering plan with an appropriate course of action and gave deadlines for Flanders to submit necessary building permit applications by Aug. 15 and to complete all repair work by Oct. 31.

On Wednesday, Craddock said the building was still being evaluated

The problems with the American Building are not new.

Last year, the South Coast Development Council (SCDC) targeted the structure for an ambitious, multi-million dollar remodeling project that would transform the building into a centralized location for entrepreneurs and local businesses to acquire permits, while providing space — like a commercial kitchen — to test ideas before going to market.

The project in that form fell apart however due to lease discrepancies between SCDC and Flanders.

“They were not as he portrayed them to be,” SCDC’s then executive director, Connie Stopher said at the time. “He said that they were year-long leases and really they were multi-year leases and at rates that were not sustainable for us and we would not be able to negotiate them."

The revelation was the latest in a string of setbacks that ultimately killed the project in its current form.

SCDC officials now say they are targeting a different space for the project, most likely Southwestern Oregon Community College.

Interim Executive Director John Hitt said SCDC would most likely not consider working with Flanders in the future.

According to Craddock, since the city was looking to purchase the American with SCDC as part of a public-private partnership, it had eyed a $100,000 project that would have improved the building’s facade.

Flanders turned the city down however when Coos Bay officials required him to repair the sidewalk in front of the American.

And while Flanders has still expressed interest in repairing the facade, the city is less enthusiastic about the prospect.

Unfortunately, I don't think that’s a wise investment on behalf of the city until they determine what’s happening,” Craddock said, who added that engineering reports submitted to city staff pointed to possible problems with the structure’s foundation.

He said the Coos Bay City Council was considering adopting ordinances similar to ones already existing in Astoria to prevent out-of-area owners from neglecting their property.

Anna Stamper, an administrative assistant for Astoria’s community development department, said one of the provisions required building owners that live more than 50 miles away to hire a property manager.

That ordinance would change little in the American’s case, as Flanders pays E.L. Edwards to manage the property.

However, a majority of the ordinances Astoria employs for buildings involves a series of maintenance and security requirements, one of which only allows for the temporary use of plywood to make repairs.

Craddock said the council was trying to be proactive and not make the same mistakes past ones had, such as with the Lockhart Building, which also had an out-of-area owner but fell into disrepair and had to be torn down.

“The city does not want to get in that position again, so we are looking at ordinances similar to what Astoria has that requires building owners to maintain their buildings or suffer some consequences,” he added.  

Reporter Spencer Cole can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 249, or by email at Spencer.Cole@theworldlink.com Follow him on Twitter: @spencerdcole.

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