The construction team working on the new Manzanita City Hall has recommended demolishing existing buildings on the site and starting the new project from the ground up, citizens learned at a city council meeting Wednesday, November 16.
The team told residents that recently completed hazardous materials, structural and geotechnical reports revealed the school building in the 1940s and Quonset Cottage in a condition impossible to fully address.
Newly hired construction manager and general contractor Jason Stegner of Cove Built LLC, project manager Jesse Steiger and architect Chris Kane said they could salvage materials from existing structures if it was a community priority.
But they said the cost of doing so would be more expensive than demolishing the structures and would leave only a handful of wall studs for recycling for the new project.
The high cost of re-using the school and Quonset Cottage was determined by the discovery that not only were the structures riddled with asbestos and mold, but their foundations had also deteriorated badly.
A recently completed Hazardous Substances Report revealed that the floors, ceilings and walls of the school building contained asbestos as did the silver paint on the exterior of Quonset Cottage. Both buildings also contain extensive mold.
The findings of the structural report were not more encouraging, showing cracking throughout the foundation, crumbling concrete in several areas, and evidence of water infiltration.
In addition to these discoveries about deficiencies in existing buildings, a geotechnical report revealed that the site’s soil quality would require engineering solutions that could not be implemented for existing buildings.
The report showed that the school and Quonset hut were located on 30 to 40 feet of loose sandy soil that would experience liquefaction during seismic events.
Since the site will also house a police station and serve as an emergency management center for the city, those areas of the facility must at least be built to the IV hazard category standard.
This means that the new town hall, or part of it, will need a foundation that can withstand seismic events.
Stegner explained that this would be achieved by building the foundation of the project’s earthquake safe zones on piles driven 50 feet underground into very dense sand.
If the residents decide to prioritize retaining the existing school and Quonset Cottage, there is no way to raise the foundations of that building to a Category IV hazard level.
This means building a new, dedicated police station and emergency management center while simultaneously rehabilitating the foundations of existing buildings for use as a town hall. Even doing this level of rehabilitation, Stegner warned, would be an expensive endeavor.
With all of these factors in mind, the construction team recommended that the city demolish the schoolhouse and Quonset Cottage and begin building from the ground up.
They emphasized repeatedly that they had not made any decisions and said that if the community wanted them to salvage materials and reuse the boards they would do so.
Steiger said she was disappointed with the results of the reports. She noted that the school was designed by a female architect, which was a rarity in that era, and it was a shame to demolish it.
Kane said there were other ways he could pay homage to the school’s architecture in designing the new town hall, and Stegner noted that there are some lighting fixtures that might be salvageable.
Then City Manager Leila Aman told the crowd that she and her team would ask the new city council for guidance on how to move forward in January.
I asked citizens to visit the city’s website and provide input on whether they should continue to explore ways to reuse existing structures in some capacity or start working on new design options.