Note: This story was updated at 2:35 p.m. May 10.
Most of a commercial building that was once home to The Oak Ridger newspaper and other businesses on Tyler and East Tyrone roads could be demolished later this year, an engineer and surveyor told a city board on Thursday.
The western part of the building near the Magic Wok restaurant would remain, and so would the diner itself.
Roughly 26,000 square feet of the building, which has housed a wide variety of businesses since the 1940s, would be demolished down to the slab. The demolition of the property, which is also known as the Wender Building after a former owner, would include the space occupied for decades by Classic Cleaners.
Noel M. Peterson, owner of Coal Creek Surveying and Engineering of Lake City, briefly outlined the plans of the owners—Jia-Chao and Ming-Wha Wang—during a Thursday meeting of the Oak Ridge Board of Building and Housing Code Appeals.
Many of the details still have to be worked out with the Oak Ridge municipal staff, and the board gave the owners another 30 days. But it’s considered a last-chance extension.
Board members expect more details at their next meeting in June, including dates and schedules—“something a little bit more solid,” board member Philip Nipper said.
Parts of the property have been declared unfit and ordered vacated because of code violations. In February, the Board of Building and Housing Code Appeals tabled a demolition or repair order for 60 days to give the owners time to sell the damaged property or develop a repair or demolition plan. That 60-day postponement expired April 27.
The two cases against the owners concern the commercial building at 123 and 135 E. Tyrone Road, just north of Oak Ridge Turnpike near Jackson Square. They exclude the manufactured structure that houses the Magic Wok, but they do include the areas in the small shopping center that have recently housed a dry cleaner, thrift store, wig shop, Mexican grocery, and the Magic Wok’s food preparation and overflow dining areas.
The staff said the estimated cost of repairs exceeds 50 percent of the building’s value.
In February, Classic Cleaners was given 10 days to vacate, but it’s not clear if the business has moved out yet. On Friday, the New 2 U Resale Thrift Store had a sign posted on its store saying it is moving to Grove Center.
Matt Widner, Oak Ridge Community Development housing specialist, said it was too early to recommend demolition until the municipal staff had seen the plan presented Thursday. The code violations at the building have probably become worse because of time, Widner said.
“The building has not been changed other than to let people vacate the premises,” said Denny Boss, Oak Ridge code enforcement supervisor.
Peterson said the building is strong, and it has a lot of good materials. The only structural hazards are due to roof deterioration, and the owners need to remove the bad part of the building, he said.
Plans call for getting rid of junk and debris and then asbestos before proceeding to demolition, Peterson said. The property could be subdivided later.
The owners could “get to demolition” in six months, Peterson said. They could keep the remaining 6,800 square feet of the building and sell the other part.
See a conceptual plan of the area to be demolished here: Wender Building Demolition. The area that would remain in the top right is where the Tienda Nony grocery was as well as the part of the building near the Magic Wok. The area at the top left is where Classic Cleaners is now.