The Maplewood City Council voted on Aug. 30 to approve the demolition of "Woodside," a house on Rannells Avenue built in the late 1840s. It is the oldest remaining residence in Maplewood.
The decision to demolish the building comes after years of attempts to find someone willing to buy and renovate it. Ward 3 Councilman Barry Greenberg explains the council's decision.
I am writing to address concerns that have been expressed regarding the possible demolition of the Rannells house otherwise known as “Woodside”. I was the president of the Maplewood Historic Preservation commission when the original request for a demolition was denied. I am also a registered architect practicing and living in Maplewood.
When the issue was submitted to the commission, we understood that the house had historical significance as the oldest standing structure in the City. While being somewhat plain and austere on the exterior, it also had some architectural significance as being indicative of construction techniques and style from the 1840’s. It was determined at that time that the building was worthy of saving if we could find a buyer that would not require a change of zoning classification and abide by the stipulation that the exterior be maintained as close to the original house as practicable.
There was also discussion of it being used by the City of Maplewood as a museum or for social functions. After much dialogue, the City determined that it does not have a need for such a facility and would have a difficult time justifying the renovation costs for a building that would be used for an unspecified purpose. With regards to a museum or any type of assembly use, the code required floor loading would be much greater than that required for residential purposes and thus would require a structural analysis of the joists, beam, foundation walls, footings and soil structure and drawings, calculations and details for the new members required to meet the requirements of the International Building Code. The building, if used for public purpose would also need to be made accessible and meet ADA requirements.
Any renovation would entail new electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems. Roof structure, ceilings, windows, floors, walls, stairs, fixtures, hardware and trim were never perfect and have deteriorated greatly in the last 12 years due to exposure to rain, wind, animals, insects and temperature extremes.
Since the City purchased the building, the City Manager, real estate agents and I have shown the property to numerous parties interested in renovating and living in the house. In each case, the potential buyer performed a cost / benefit analysis and in each case it was determined that it did not make sense to proceed with a purchase. The Council has discussed this issue several times in the last 10 years I have served on City Council and each time we decided to give it a little more time to see if a buyer would materialize.
In our most recent discussion, we determined that there doesn’t appear to be an interested party in the near future, that the building was in poor condition, the amount of money need for a renovation of the building envelope could be better spent on other City priorities, and that we would not tolerate a private citizen maintaining their property in the condition that Woodside currently exists.
For all above reasons the City has solicited demolition proposals and a contractor will be selected after the bids are submitted. There is a very small window for the Council to reconsider the decision and that could happen only if a viable proposal was made for the property.
Barry J. Greenberg, AIA
Councilperson, Ward Three