The building that once housed the Lawrence Ice Co. at 616 Vt. has finally outlived its usefulness, said co-owner Robert Harrison, who wants to demolish the building to make way for new developments.
"It's an old building," Harrison said. "It was designed as an ice plant. Basically, that's what it's set up to do, and that era is gone."
Harrison pointed to recent efforts to upgrade downtown Lawrence, and the 600 block of Vermont in particular, as a sign that the ice plant's time has come.
"I think we've reached the point where something else needs to go there," he said.
The building has been vacant, except for occasional storage use, since its last tenant, Everything But Ice, moved to 936 Mass. in 1989.
Harrison said he tried sprucing his building up with a new paint job and structural improvements to attract new tenants, but couldn't find any takers. It still could be used as warehouse space, he said, "but I think there are better uses for the property."
HARRISON said he doesn't have any specific plans for the property after the demolition. He will review his options in the coming weeks.
Harrison and his wife, Pauline, have owned the building for about 30 years, he said.
According to Paul Caviness, board member of the Lawrence Preservation Alliance and part-time historian, most of the existing building was constructed in the 1910s to house the Griffin Ice Co.
It was used as an ice factory under many different owners and names until the late 1970s.
Structurally, the building is typical of early 20th century industrial plants, Caviness said.
Harrison said he didn't think the building was particularly significant historically or architecturally.
"IF THE building had more character, it might be more significant, but I don't think people view it in that light," he said.
Harrison applied for a demolition permit from the city Jan. 24. There is a 30-day waiting period before the permit can be approved.
Barry Newton, chair of the city's Historical Resources Commission, said the commission would discuss the historical significance of the building and the demolition request at its Feb. 20 meeting.
"It's one of the few buildings left that represents turn-of-the-century development along the riverside," he said. "Someone has to do some careful work on researching its heritage."
THE BUILDING is not listed on local, state or national historic registers and therefore is not covered by a state law that requires the Kansas State Historical Society and the HRC to review the demolition, said Linda Finger, the city's historic resources administrator.
"I personally can't see any reason to say the building should be saved," Finger said. "I think there are better fights to pick than that one."
Newton said he didn't know whether the commission would object to the demolition.