Letter: Demolition of Fox Theater a ‘choice’ by the city

Editor’s Note: Metro Wire staff is attempting to confirm whether a date for demolition has been scheduled. At press, the city’s community development department has not provided confirmation. 

To the Editor-

On Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019, the City of Stevens Point will begin demolition of the Fox Theater.

This is an elective action. The city could instead elect to save the Fox. It has not.

On July 22, 2019, the building inspector issued a raze order directing the owner of the Fox, Fox on Main LLC, to demolish the entire building. This was to correct approximately six years of inaction. During those six years, expenditures by Fox on Main LLC were inadequate to accomplish needed building repairs.

In the time since the raze order was issued, neither the Fox on Main LLC nor the city has made any effort to correct the deficiencies that gave rise to the raze order. The focus of all activities has been to demolish to Fox.

In contrast, the family has worked to provide options that will correct cited deficiencies and eliminate the raze order, thereby preventing demolition.

In 2013, the Minneapolis-based structural engineering firm of Meyer, Borgman, and Johnson (MBJ) conducted a thorough investigation of the Fox. In the 40-page report resulting from the MBJ investigation, a complete version of which the family provided to the building inspector, 12 items needing attention were identified.

Fox on Main was provided with preliminary results of the structural study. When the structural engineer came here to his initial investigations found that the building was well taken care of. The engineer said that “Although the theater hadn’t been used for over 30 years, the Sanders family did a good job of taking care of the building so that it’s not like a building that has been vacant for 30 years should be.”

After revisiting the Fox in May of 2018, the MBJ report indicated that “The majority of our observations suggest the condition of the building is similar to our observations in 2013.”

The Boldt Company was sent the complete MBJ report and was asked to develop costs for each of those 12 items.

On Oct. 8, 2019, Boldt provided the requested figures. These figures were given to the mayor. Of the 12 items, only two were cause for issuance of the raze order. The two items were: repair of one truss at a cost of $25,600; and providing new asphalt shingles for the whole auditorium roof at a cost of $139,000. Total cost to make repairs needed to remove the raze order is $164,600. Cost of other items needing attention prior to reopening totals $90,400. These two items total $254,000.

The cost for demolition is reported to be $250,000.

These numbers have been ignored by the city. Instead, they are relying on an estimate of $500,000 for roof and truss work provided by [an] unidentified person(s). A request for any engineering studies produced after the MBJ visit of May 2018 yielded nothing.

And so the Fox comes down by the city’s choice…not supported by necessity.

D.K. Sanders, Madison
Ada Sanders, Stevens Point