Clearance for the demolition of two buildings arrived by letter last week at Morenci city hall, paving the way for the next step in the parking lot improvement project.
The $761,000 project came to a halt while waiting for a response from the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) regarding the demolition of the former Grange Hall and the Dunbar Auction House.
The agency examines property slated for demolition in state-funded projects to check for historical significance. The agency concluded that no historic properties were involved in the project.
However, the city is still waiting on another agency to allow the demolition of a house at the northeast corner of LaGrange and Orchard streets.
A public notice is published in this week’s Observer that outlines the project, seeks public comment through July 23, and announces the city’s intent to ask the State of Michigan to release funds for the work. The earliest that could occur, said city administrator/clerk Renée Schroeder, is Aug. 9.
Schroeder met Friday with mayor Keith Pennington, city supervisor Barney Vanderpool and engineer Scott Merillat to discuss the project.
“Because of the longer than expected delay from SHPO,” she said, “it doesn’t look like construction will begin until early spring.”
It was agreed not to tear up the parking areas until reconstruction could occur, so work would not be scheduled before winter. Schroeder expects bids to go out over the winter in preparation for work to begin in early spring.
Demolition of the two commercial buildings could begin any time after Aug. 9, Schroeder added, and city council may choose to proceed with that phase of the project this year.
Additional changes in the design of the parking areas south of Main Street are expected to be presented Monday at the city council meeting.
The project will reconstruct the two city parking lots on the south side of Main Street and rebuild Baker Street to include curb and gutters.
Demolition of the Grange and the house to the south will allow Orchard Street to be widened to a standard width and improve the intersection with Baker Street.
Through the demolition of the Dunbar building on North Street, the 12-foot alley north of Johnson’s Hardware will be widened for two-way traffic and alleviate access problems. Additional parking space will also be created.