A city-hired contractor could begin demolition of the Columbus Hotel as early as today.
According to an engineer’s report, the walls of the fire-ravaged downtown building are in danger of collapsing and represent a danger to the public. Last week, city council gave the owner until Wednesday to begin demolition. On Monday, council denied a request from the owner for more time.
“There is no doubt the building has to come down. We just need some time to get our estimates in,” owner Robin Gibson said. “The insurance company requires three estimates. We’ve been working on it steady since this happened.”
Gibson said he was waiting on an engineer’s report on the safety of removing the foundation before being able to get bids on the demolition.
“The foundation goes down ten feet. If we take the walls out, the foundation could slough and what happens to the Generator (night club)?” Gibson said.
The engineer’s report was supposed to be complete Friday, but as of Monday evening wasn’t finished.
“We just need some time to get our estimates in,” he said. “We’ve got it taped off. I have hired my own security to watch it 24-7.”
Structural engineering consultant Fergus Foley said in his report to council that a heavy rainfall or strong winds could destabilize the structure.
“A lot of the interior walls are just sitting on debris,” Foley said. “There is no proper foundation for a lot of it. If people go and disturb the debris, God knows what will come down on them.”
A strong wind could topple the walls, which now have no lateral support.
Councillors Glen Scott and Don Zurowski both proposed motions to give Gibson up to 10 days extra time. However, Scott’s motion wasn’t seconded and Zurowski’s motion was defeated by a narrow margin.
“If the owner is committed to providing 24-hour security in front and back, then I think it would be fair to extend seven days to 14,” Zurowski said.
Councillors Debora Munoz and Brian Skakun and Mayor Colin Kinsley spoke out against the extension.
“The walls are currently a danger. I think it’s too much time to leave a highly dangerous site in waiting,” Munoz said. “I’d be more comfortable going ahead with the demolition of this site.”
City manager of supply and fleet services Scott Bone said the city has put out a tender for the work and received five bids by Monday evening. The tender ended at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.
“The contractors have advised us the demolition could begin Wednesday morning. (But) we don’t have a clear indication of what the timeline will be,” Bone said.
The city was expecting a report on any potential asbestos hazard on Wednesday, he said. If there was a need for an asbestos clean-up, it could take longer for the demolition to be completed.
The city’s tender is for the contractor to knock the material down into the foundation and cover it to grade level, Bone explained, which will not disturb the foundation or neighbouring buildings.