City decides to demolish 507 Race Street

Submitted to Dorchester Banner/Floyd Elzey The building at 507 Race St. in Cambridge suffered a partial collapse on May 22. Authorities have closed that block to traffic. A sign placed across the street outside of Chesapeake Upholstery called for city officials to demolish what remains of the building.

Submitted to Dorchester Banner/Floyd Elzey
The building at 507 Race St. in Cambridge suffered a partial collapse on May 22. Authorities have closed that block to traffic. A sign placed across the street outside of Chesapeake Upholstery called for city officials to demolish what remains of the building.

CAMBRIDGE — The City Council decided unanimously on May 24 to demolish 507 Race St. The building had sustained partial collapses the previous two days, resulting in the closure to traffic on the 500 block, after engineers and the Department of Public Works deemed it unsafe.
The council also voted to appropriate $250,000 to pay for the demolition.

A fire about six years ago gutted the building’s interior, though the facade and its unique architecture remained. Owned by Historic Cambridge, Inc., the structure has been under purchase contract with Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC). Katie Parks, director of conservation for the ESLC spoke at the meeting, saying, “We’ve been working for the past few months on due diligence.”

In the recent days, she said, the ESLC had received positive indications that the Department of Housing and Community Development would provide up to $290,000 for stabilization of the facade, or front wall of the building.

Katie Clendaniel of Downtown Cambridge, a Main Street organization, spoke in support of the ESLC’s goals. “We’re here to advocate for the project as proposed, the preservation of the facade at 507 Race St.”

“We do believe that there is value present in 507, though at this point we’re still trying to articulate what economic value that might be. It does have streetscape value.”

Floyd Elzey owns an upholstery business across the street. “I’ve been looking at this building for at least six years,” he said. “There have been a lot of promises, a lot of people were going to do something, and nothing has happened.”

Greg Dawson of 410 Muir St. spoke to the council, saying, “My concern is, is it going to take the building falling in the street, killing somebody, before we decide that demolition would be a better option?”

City Manager Sandra Trippe-Jones said, “In the opinion of staff, time has run out, unfortunately, on what would have been a very long-term effort.” She said though she had spoken with the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development, and been told over the phone that the agency would not fund demolition, she recommended that the city nevertheless make a formal request for funds.

Commissioner Steve Rideout (Ward 1) said, “To me, it’s a lesson. If folks are going to do this kind of work, they have to get on it and get it done.”

Dave Ryan is editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at dryan@newszap.com.

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