The Mount Airy Town Council will likely get a first look at rehabilitation plans for the town’s historic Flat Iron building in March, according to town engineer Barney Quinn.
The council voted in June to hire Ellicott City architecture firm Brennan+Company to complete architectural and design work on the building at a cost of $45,000.
The architecture firm has been directed to explore three options for the building:
Constructing a tunnel walkway for pedestrians on Main Street that would replace a narrow portion of sidewalk beside the building.
Relocating the building away from Main Street.
Keeping the building in place and doing whatever is necessary to make the structurally unsound building safe.
Quinn said that the firm is coming up with preliminary costs for each of the three options, and results will be presented to the council at the March meeting.
The Town Council voted in February 2023 to rehabilitate and preserve the historic building, and following that decision, the town paid $24,000 for a structural assessment of the building by Albrecht Engineering, Inc. In its January 2023 report, the engineering firm estimated a cost of $541,000 to rehab the main structure, complete site work and construct a tunnel that would replace a narrow portion of sidewalk along the current building and create a walkway along Main Street for pedestrians. The report noted the cost estimate was for structural improvements only, and there would be additional architectural, site/utility and other costs.
The building has three floors with a footprint of about 1,000 square feet. Since 1903, it has stood in various configurations and had many uses, including as the town hall, a museum and the first American Legion post in Mount Airy after World War II.
In 1950, the town purchased the Flat Iron building with an intent to demolish it and widen Main Street, but in 1959, the Town Council voted to keep the building intact.
In May 2022, the Town Council voted 3-2 to demolish the structure because of safety concerns. Following the vote, Mayor Larry Hushour vowed to save the building. Since then, he has spearheaded a task force to apply for grants and has worked with other town residents to figure out options to save the building.
In January 2023 the task force recommended that the town proceed with rehabilitation and preservation of the building. Members said they intended to continue studying improvements that can be made to the design of the building, and apply for grants to help pay for the work.
In March 2023, the Town Council passed an ordinance stating that it would be in the best interest of the town and its residents to rehabilitate the building instead of demolishing it.
The three-page ordinance stated that the town had completed an “extensive study and investigation” of the Flat Iron building, including an analysis of its “structural integrity” and “has had exhaustive discussions among town elected officials … the Mount Airy Volunteer Fire Company, the Mount Airy Historical Society, group(s) of concerned citizens interested in preserving the building, the Maryland Preservation Society, the town’s insurers and citizens of the town and surrounding areas, among others, over the course of many years.”
Since the vote, the task force has obtained a number of grants to put toward the restoration project.
In December, the project received $150,000 from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development and $10,000 from the Historical Society of Mount Airy. Also last year the American Legion Gold Star Post 191 gave $5,000 toward preservation of the building, and Preservation Maryland awarded a $10,000 grant.