The owner of the Wilson building says the recent shutdown of his building due to a “serious mold condition” is the latest in a series of actions taken by the city to persuade him to sell.
“The building is the centerpiece of downtown and the city wants it, but I’m not going to sell it,” owner Bill Twyford, of Bailey, Colo., said.
The city discussed purchasing the building during the dock sale discussions, but City Administrator Jeff Horne says the city is not interested in owning the building.
“We don’t want to own that building, we just don’t want it to deteriorate anymore,” Horne said. “We’re trying to work through possible solutions.”
Horne said the city wants to preserve the buildings that surround the Wilson Building at 217 Fifth Ave. South from similar deterioration.
Twyford claims he and the city have a nearly seven-year history discussing what should be done with the building including compiling a long list in March of this year. Throughout the discussions, Twyford said, the city has taken action building conditions did not warrant and questions why other buildings in downtown haven’t been subject to similar scrutiny.
“I’ve hired a firm in Des Moines to investigate why this building is being targeted,” he said.
Twyford said he would like to open the building to bring people downtown to shop, but has been stopped by the city.
Previous occupants throughout the building’s nearly century-old history include Pillsbury, JCPenney, dentists, psychiatrists, and most recently an antique store, a Catholic radio station and an auction showroom operated by Ted Wilk.
The building, which is the tallest structure in the downtown, was added to a list of properties in Clinton eligible for the National Historic Register by consultant Molly Meyer in 1997.
Twyford has owned the building since 2001 and since, he said, he’s invested $200,000 in work into its interior.
“I’ve been trying to open that building for a year,” Twyford said.
However, Twyford’s estimate of $30,000 to $50,000 to open the building falls far below the amount that’s been communicated to Clinton Building and Neighborhood Services Official Mike Harmon. Inspectors estimate the remediation would cost between $100,000 and $300,000.
The figure was determined after a series of inspection in the past weeks to determine what it would take to make the building safe again, Harmon said.
To fight the mold, the building would need to go through a dehumidifying process to draw the moist air out. Following the removal of moist air, dry air would need to take its place.
“It’s a huge air exchange process,” Harmon said. “Then you would have to really almost gut the place.”
Harmon pointed to a leak in the building’s roof and standing water in the basement as troublesome items.
Twyford claims the leak in the roof was fixed this year, a mold report shows the mold is only in the basement and the leak is due to a problem caused, but not fixed, by the city.
According to Harmon, the mold spore test will not be back for another three weeks, but based on the air sampling for moisture content, inspectors believe there is a serious mold condition throughout the building.
“My understanding is a lot of it is hidden,” Harmon said.
Despite the numerous obstacles, including being deemed unfit for human habitation in April 2010 after the water was shut off, Twyford said he plans to fix the building and even hopes to see a few floors used by Ashford University or another organization or business that would draw people back into downtown.
Without action, the landmark building is facing a grave fate.
“It’s on the way to being condemned if nothing’s done,” Harmon said.