Engineers will start inspecting the derelict Atrium building this week. But while a report on its structural strength could soon follow, Mayor Rajko Dodic expects it will take longer to determine what it could cost to level the long-abandoned downtown building.
And whether it's worth it.
That cost, he warned city council Monday, could exceed the value of the commercial property once it's cleared off. Should the city order demolition anyway?
"That will have to be decided by city council," the mayor said.
Dodic said the West Coast company which owns the building has already been issued a demolition order. But it's given city officials no response, he said.
Now that the deadline set in that order has passed, the mayor said the city has the right to send structural engineers onto the site. After determining the condition of the 7 Street S. structure, they'll consult with demolition experts and prepare a cost estimate.
The work could be costly, he said, in comparison with the city's demolition of the old Bridge Inn a decade ago. Dismantling a building made of post-tensioned concrete - exposed and weathered for 30 years now - will be more difficult than knocking over an old wood-and-plaster building.
Adding to the problem, Dodic said, is the fact there are other commercial structures just inches away. When the Bridge Inn was flattened, he pointed out, there were no other buildings nearby.
"This one has two neighbours," so the city will need demolition experts to undertake the work.
That won't happen without council's authorization, Dodic says. First, it will learn what costs are involved and compare that to the value of the land.
If costs are unexpectedly high, he said council would have two options.
"We could bite the bullet" and look at the outlay as a kind of civic improvement, with taxpayers sharing the expense.
"Or we could decide not to proceed, and maybe it will remain in that state forever."
The city could also sue the owners, Trav Enterprises Ltd. located in California and metro Vancouver.
"But it could be a paper judgement," Dodic said.
If the company has no other assets in Alberta to lay a claim against, he said a civil court action could prove futile.
Meanwhile, the mayor said some residents have responded o council's determination to get rid of the eyesore, with a little skepticism.
"They're saying, 'I'll believe it when I see it.'"