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Repair plans for Main Oak now underway

People in Mount Airy are still counting their lucky stars when it comes to the near miss incident involving the Main Oak Building.

The partial collapse of the historic downtown building occurred in the early morning hours of July 5 after the Fourth of July parade had made its way past the Main Oak Building just the day before the collapse.

Since that time Mount Airy residents have been hungry for information, but it has been hard to come by since the building’s collapse. Mount Airy City Manager Stan Farmer was excited Monday to offer some good news and a progress update.

He said after a conference call on the Main Oak Building that the news, “Seems really positive. The insurance issues appear to have been settled and a plan is in place” to repair and restore the building.

Farmer said that for about the next three months the plan is to work out the design of the repair work. He noted that the third floor has been shored up and the plans are “not starting from scratch.” A major focus of the project will be the restoration of the historic façade of the building.

After the planning stages, Farmer said for the next three to six months construction and repair will be occurring. Concurrently, the owners will be applying for historic tax credits to offset the costs of repair to a building that is included in the Mount Airy Historical District.

He noted that the support beams would need to remain in place, but the barricades have been moved as much as possible to allow for pedestrians to move more easily downtown once again.

The free flow of foot traffic was a concern to organizers and vendors of the upcoming Autumn Leaves Festival in downtown Mount Airy. Farmer said the situation in regard to ALF has improved as much as possible noting the city has done all they can do.

While the public had been waiting for news, Farmer said his interactions with the building’s owner and the companies contracted to do the demo work and removal had been very positive. “They have done what they said they were going to do,” he said.

Any time you have an incident such as this and there are multiple parties involved it can be challenging, Farmer said. Trying to navigate the varying interests of the building owner, the insurance company, and the city itself can be tricky.

Farmer though reiterated that the parties are moving forwards and are committed to the repair of the Main Oak Building.

The three-story structure, at the corner of Main and Oak Streets had changed hands last year, when long-time owner Burke Robertson sold the building to a Durham business known as Mt. Airy Once, LLC. The new owners were planning to convert at least part of the building into Airbnb units supplying short-term rentals to tourists in town like the project they did in Elkin called Three Trails.

While the initial planning had been for short term rentals, Airbnb rentals tend to be for a week or less when someone is on vacation, he noted the Elkin plans had evolved. Farmer said the Elkin project has been marketed with some success by Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital to travelling nurses and doctors.

Therefore, the Main Oak project will also seek flexibility, Farmer said, to allow for some instances of long-term rentals similar to Three Trails in Elkin.

The Main Oak Building was constructed between 1905 and 1910 as the Midkiff Hardware Store. Lizzie Morrison, downtown coordinator for Mount Airy Downtown Inc., said at the time of the collapse they were, “Shocked and saddened by the sudden partial loss of a pivotal historic building in the Mount Airy National Register Historic District.

“It is an invaluable and irreplaceable part of our history here in Mount Airy. The community and visitors alike will be mourning a monumental loss if the front facade cannot be saved.”



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