|By Kevin Leininger, The News-Sentinel, Fort
Wayne, Ind.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
February 17, 2009-- Allen County building officials have recommended the demolition of what has been called one of the worst construction jobs in local history.
"This has been going on for eight months, and there is some concern about additional problems, probably caused by freezing and thawing. It's not an emergency yet, and we don't want it to be," said Building Commissioner Dave Fuller, whose department will conduct a hearing Feb. 24 to determine the fate of the 80-room Homewood Suites by Hilton Hotel at West Jefferson Boulevard and Interstate 69.
The department stopped work in May after inspectors noticed serious flaws in the seven-story construction, including cracks in elevator towers. Loose, improperly prepared soil has also caused the building to sink five inches. About $2.6 million had already been spent on the project, and Fuller said the building's tilt has become more severe recently.
The owners, Super Host Hospitality, which also owns the Hilton Garden Inn next door, hired engineers to assess the problem and were told they could repair the existing shell for $2.3 million, plus the cost of completing the $5.4 million hotel. Demolition was expected to cost about $300,000, forcing the company to begin the project from scratch.
Company officials have investigated the cost and benefits of each option, but the demolition order is meant to spur a decision, one way or another. If the hearing determines the need for fast action, Fuller said, owners would have two weeks to begin demolition or to shore up and salvage the building -- something he believes would be too costly. If they do nothing, the county would raze the building and bill the owners for the expense.
The general contractor, Condor Concepts of Elgin, Ill., has been banned from working in Allen County. And in December the Building Department revoked the license of Allen County contractor Larry Lengecher, whose company handled most of the concrete and masonry work. Company officials were unavailable for comment, but have said they still hope to open a new hotel on the site by the end of the year.
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