A fire over the weekend in a crawl space has delayed renovation plans for the landmark Equitable Building at Sixth Avenue and Locust Street by about one month, an owner said today.
Shawn Foutch said that after assessing the damage he talked to investment partners, who have said that their support for the renovation was not shaken by a fire early Saturday that appears to have started in an air conditioning unit.
"One of equity partners basically said, 'Assess the damage, roll it into the project and let's go,' " Foutch said.
Foutch and his brothers, operating as Foutch Bros. LLC., bought the building out of foreclosure for $460,000 in 2012 and announced an $18 million conversion of what was once the tallest office building in the city to 120 apartments, while preserving office and retail spaces on the lower floors.
After walking through the building with fire investigators, Foutch said the cause appears to have been an air conditioning apparatus outside the second floor. Fire spread into a crawl space between the second and third floors, where it was confined.
Foutch said the sound construction of 90-year-old building apparently prevented the fire from spreading to other floors.
There is smoke damage throughout the building and water damage from the third floor down.
One area of concern has been whether the fire penetrated material that has encapsulated asbestos. That once-common fire retardant has been at the cause of woe at the Equitable Building, which was once owned by the late Bob Knapp. Knapp served a federal prison sentence for violating federal air standards for abatement of the hazardous substance. Knapp died a few days after completing the prison term.
Foutch said the entire building is being considered as a hazardous waste site until inspectors determine whether asbestos is a new threat. He believes an inspection should be completed by Thursday.
Renovation of the building was scheduled to begin in November or December. That work probably has been delayed by about 30 days.
"We'll get through this hiccup, and then we'll be on our way," Foutch said.