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The Scarlet & Black

Businesses on Broad suffer damage

Parts+of+the+sidewalk+in+front+of+popular+businesses+Saints+Rest+and+Bikes+To+You+have+been+blocked+off+after+a+large+piece+of+stone+fell+from+the+facade+of+Saints+Rest.+The+incident+prompted+a+greater+investigation+into+the+well-being+of+the+facades.+Photo+by+Shabana+Gupta.
Parts of the sidewalk in front of popular businesses Saints Rest and Bikes To You have been blocked off after a large piece of stone fell from the facade of Saints Rest. The incident prompted a greater investigation into the well-being of the facades. Photo by Shabana Gupta.

A large piece of the facade of the building housing Saints Rest and Bikes to You fell to the ground and shattered on Friday, April 12, leading to the erection of scaffolding and a partial blockage of the sidewalk amid fears that subsequent falling pieces could injure passersby.

Sam Cox, a Grinnellian and owner of Saints Rest Coffee Shop, described the damage, saying “Pieces of rock and also marble [were] chipping off. … A large piece [broke off], hit the ground and shattered.”

Cox has yet to find out how extensive the damage to the facade is. “I think that that’s up for debate, I know [the city] is calling in architectural specialists to determine how bad the damage is,” she said.

In 2016, the City of Grinnell agreed to a deal with architectural firm RDG Planning & Design to restore the facades of 13 different storefronts downtown, including the ones affected by the current issue. With over $1 million in funding from the HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program and contributions from the store owners on the street, the project included power washing, masonry repair and renovation of the upper and lower storefront windows, and the addition of new awnings and signage to return the facades to their historic appearance.

Cox wondered if these renovations had contributed to the current damage. “[I’m] not sure whether the damage is from age … or if [the power washing] is what is responsible,” she said.

This seems to be a plausible explanation for the damage, as the U.S. Department of Interior regulations for work on stone facades say that stone should be washed with low or no-power equipment.

This has also raised confusion about responsibility for the repair costs. As part of the contract for the facades restoration, the City was also absolved of responsibility for any damage resulting from the project for the next seven years.

“Everybody shared part of [the] expense, it wasn’t [Craig Cooper’s] decision who the contractor was or what [was done],” Cox said.

Cooper, owner of Bikes to You and some of the other buildings on the street, declined to comment for this article, as he had turned the matter over to an attorney.

Going forward, Cox is worried about the implications of the damage. Currently, parts of the sidewalk that are closest to the affected buildings have been closed off, and scaffolding has been erected above the entrances of the businesses, but without more information about the extent of the damage it is unclear whether these are satisfactory measures.

She was worried that this information would not be available soon enough: “I’m unsure what the timeline is … maybe six months, but it may be a lengthier process.”

This poses some issues for Cox, as Saints Rest is busiest in May and June, and the College’s Commencement and Reunion necessitate outdoor seating to accommodate increased patronage: “I’ve been very fortunate this far [to not be affected by the sidewalk blockage], but our busiest months are coming up. … We have a lot of events that are hosted outside. If [the] sidewalk is closed, it could be bad. … I’m a little apprehensive.”

She hoped that Grinnellians could come together and find a solution to this problem soon. “As a community person, or citizen of Grinnell, it would be in everyone’s interest to work together and not be divided. It affects half the block so it would be best for everyone if this was resolved sooner rather than later, and I’m holding out hope for that.”

Parts of the sidewalk in front of popular businesses Saints Rest and Bikes To You have been blocked off after a large piece of stone fell from the facade of Saints Rest. The incident prompted a greater investigation into the well-being of the facades. Photo by Shabana Gupta.
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