By Tim Kowols
Two local groups hope they have not missed their chance to save the granary in Sturgeon Bay. The Sturgeon Bay Historical Society and the Sturgeon Bay Center for the Arts exploratory committee were both surprised Wednesday afternoon when Fire Chief Tim Dietman issued a raze order for the granary a week after receiving complaints about the building potentially shifting. The CFTA was scheduled to meet with city officials Thursday about their proposal, which would include a living museum, space for the Miller Art Museum and Third Avenue Playhouse, a brewpub, and other amenities. Hans Christian from the CFTA exploratory committee says they need a sign from the city that they are in support of the project.
The Sturgeon Bay Historical Society stated in a Thursday morning release that they have the $150,000 necessary to aid in the stabilization and repair of the granary to be used for future projects. Laurel Hauser from the Sturgeon Bay Historical Society says they are also asking for an 18-month period to solidify and present a plan that follows the Public Trust Doctrine and the building’s recent inclusion on the State Register of Historic Places.
The SBHS is requesting a more thorough study to be conducted before committing to demolish the building, which is requested by Dietman through the raze order to occur within the next 30 days.
Full Release from the Sturgeon Bay Historical Society
For immediate Release – October 19, 2017
City prepares to tear down Historic Grain Elevator without proper study
The Sturgeon Bay Historical Society was surprised to learn Wednesday that, on October 17, Fire Chief Dietman issued an immediate Raze Order with few other details to the City of Sturgeon Bay for the Historic Grain Elevator on Sturgeon Bay’s West Waterfront. The Raze Order is to be completed within 30 days, on the basis of inspection by the Fire Chief.
The Teweles and Brandeis Granary was officially listed on the Wisconsin Registry of Historic Places on August 18, 2017. It is expected to be added to the National Registry of Historic Places within the coming weeks. The fate of a historic, 116-year old icon of Sturgeon Bay should not be decided over a weekend.
The Sturgeon Bay Historical Society announced today that it has raised the required $150,000 in private funds, which are in-hand and ready to spend immediately on stabilization and repair of the Granary. The successful fundraising occurred in the short time since a City Council resolution on August 1, 2017, instructed the City to secure bids for demolition “not to occur before January 1, 2018,” unless a group came forward with a plan for future use.
Over the past two weeks, SBHS has had preliminary conversations with City staff and officials communicating their efforts, along with SBHS’s sincere commitment to the Granary’s stabilization and repair in preparation for a new future use. On October 19th, SBHS submitted an official letter to the Common Council stating that funds had been raised and are immediately available for use in stabilization. In the letter, SBHS also asked for an 18-month period in which to solidify and present a community-devised proposal that adheres to the Public Trust Doctrine and State Historical Society and outlines a clear plan and timeline for implementation and funding. SBHS and granary supporters are disheartened that SBHS’s offer to the City of private funds for restoration seems coincidental with the raze order.
On Friday, October 13, the Fire Chief sent a letter to Mayor Birmingham stating that a complaint had been received that the Granary may have shifted in recent strong winds. The Fire Chief noted that he’d instructed City staff to “shoot some elevations at certain locations on the building” and indicated readings would be repeated “next week.” The Fire Chief stated in his letter, “We cannot determine if the Granary has moved to date as we have no prior readings that we know of.” The Fire Chief’s order to raze the grain elevator was dated four days later.
It is not true that the City has no prior readings to refer to. In 2013, the City of Sturgeon Bay hired Meyer Borgman Johnson (MBJ), a professional structural design and engineering firm, to conduct a thorough structural analysis of the granary’s superstructure. After taking measurements, the firm stated, “a detailed computer analysis model was constructed to capture the elevator behavior. The model includes over 1,000 pieces, over 700 plates, and over 1,200 connections. Twenty-six different load combinations of wind, self-weight, and live load were considered… The computer analysis was supplemented by hand calculations and MBJ analysis spreadsheets to determine loads and to confirm the computer results.”
In summarizing its findings, MBJ goes on to state, “Based on the information gathered during the site visit report and the subsequent calculations, it is our conclusion that the existing elevator is in generally good condition and retains sufficient capacity to support this intended use, with some modifications.” The firm’s report is publicly available and can be seen on the Friends of Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront website.
Yesterday, Alderwoman Hauser spoke with engineer Dave Holten of MBJ, who had signed off on the 2013 report. Holten had not been contacted by the City or the Fire Chief regarding these latest concerns. Holten was able to identify prior measurements from the 2013 report that may be helpful as baseline. Holten mentioned that it is not unusual for contractors and others to be concerned about suspected movement that, in some cases, has not occurred. The only way to assess movement is to work off of baseline measurements and utilize expert analysis in interpreting results. Holten suggested that, in addition to looking at the 2013 measurements, a local surveyor could take current position measurements and monitor the situation for three months to access exactly how much shift is happening and where.
SBHS requests a thorough study be conducted. Should findings bear out the need for demolition, the group requests that a plan be made to salvage the interior beams, working mechanisms and grain bins.
The Sturgeon Bay Historical Society’s offer to the City of Sturgeon Bay is attached. SBHS hopes that the City Council, Mayor Birmingham, and the Fire Chief will allow our historic Teweles and Brandeis Granary to be saved, restored, and become again the West Waterfront’s iconic hub.