The future of former doctor’s offices on Martin Luther King Street remains uncertain after developers gave an update on plans to renovate them to apartments last week. Developer Chip Piazza asked the Denison City Council for extra time to prep the site for redevelopment after asbestos was discovered.
“The situation is that after the asbestos is removed I need to do some soul searching on if the property should be razed to the ring site or if I can afford to push the property forward,” Piazza said during Monday’s meeting.
In a unanimous vote, the council approved giving Piazza 90 days to complete the interior demolition of the site in preparation of proposed future redevelopment. Under city ordinance, Piazza will need to give a progress report on the demolition every 30 days.
Through much of the early 20th century, asbestos was used as a building material, but use declined in the 1980s as evidence of its toxicity began to grow. Illnesses related to the material include several forms of respiratory cancer and asbestosis, the scaring of the lungs connected to the inhalation of the material.
In mid-October, Piazza approached the council with plans to redevelop the site into 16 residential apartments. This occurred during a meeting where the council was expected to vote on authorizing the demolition of the property.
The council ultimately agreed to give Piazza 60 days to complete the interior demolition and asked that he return to city staff at that time to discuss the next step for development. However, with asbestos found at the site, this demolition has been stalled.
“So far, there has yet to be anything done here,” Denison building official Betty Floyd said Monday. “It is exactly the way it was (in October).”
Since the initial tests, Piazza said he has had independent sampling and a third-party planner come to the site to discuss the removal of the material.
“Ultimately, you are trying to narrow down and define what has asbestos in it,” he said.
In the case of the doctor’s offices, Piazza said it seems to have been used in the compound on the drywall. In order to abate the material, Piazza said it will require the removal of large portions of the drywall within the buildings and other materials, including screws, that held it in place.
Piazza said he has someone under contract to perform the abatement, which is scheduled to start on Jan. 3 and take about three weeks to complete. Following this, Piazza said he will continue with the internal demolition as planned. Future plans will be determined at that time, he said.
“A lot of that depends on what my demo numbers are after the abatement,” Piazza said.
In September, Piazza pulled a specific demolition permit for interior demolition of the properties, but work has yet to start. Piazza said in October that his intention was to take the buildings down to their frames and bricks in preparation for the remodel.
In previous cases where a property owner has attempted to save a structure from demolition, the council typically votes to give them six months to complete the necessary repairs. However, in most cases, these requests are made by individual homeowners and Piazza’s request was new territory for the city.
With last week’s approval of extra time for this project, City Manager Jud Rex said the city was setting a new precedent as this situation had yet to come up in its demolition program.
If the project is not feasible after internal demolition, Denison Development Services Director Gabe Reaume said there may still be potential for development at the site. Reaume said there has been discussion and consideration of demolishing the former Texoma Medical Center complex, which sits adjacent to the offices. If the two were combined, Reaume said there would be ample room for redevelopment opportunities including an apartment complex or a residential subdivision.