LAKE PLACID - Northwood Assistant Head of School Thomas Broderick shared more information Friday, March 10 about why the private school decided it will demolish the historic century-old With Pipe and Book building at the heart of Main Street.
Broderick said the school came to the decision after its Jan. 28 board meeting. In 2016, over the course of multiple site visits, it became clear to Northwood administrators, their architects (OMR Architects) and their engineers (Foley, Buhl Roberts & Associates) that if the school didn't demolish the building, it would over-engineer to compensate for inadequacies.
And Broderick said Northwood's engineers couldn't guarantee the building's weak and - in many locations - mortar-less concrete masonry units (CMUs) would withstand a seismic event.
The former With Pipe and Book store at 2495 Main St. is seen Friday, March 10 with renderings hung behind storefront windows of Northwood School’s plans to convert the space into an educational hub after planned demolition.
(News photo — Antonio Olivero)
Broderick, who is also a history teacher at the school, said Northwood's engineers' last major site visit before the January board meeting was in November, which lead to the school peeling back the structure's foundation to find it sat on a pile of almost pyramid-like rubble.
The school and engineers then went back to test the structure's CMUs, which engineers deemed weren't close to complying with modern standards, including for seismic activity and heat.
Broderick said when the CMUs were tested they disintegrated. The mortar between many blocks had also disintegrated over time.
"There's a gap of a half-inch (to) quarter-inch that runs kind of like this down the building," Broderick said Friday, March 10. "So when you are inside, you can look out and see light straight outside."
"The problem (with the foundation)," Broderick added, "is we were hoping to go 2 feet down to give more ceiling height. We could only go 9 inches because that rubble extends way into the foundation below it. There is no way anyone would be able to figure these things out until they actually got in the process of pulling a brick out of the building and taking the floor up.
"(At the Jan. 28 meeting), one board member chimed in and said, 'You know, buildings are like people, they have a lifespan. And we just have to admit that this building has reached its lifespan,'" he continued. "And I happen to agree with that."
Broderick said the school plans to build the new structure on the same foundation of the three-story, 9,000-square-foot retail building that was once home to the With Pipe and Book bookstore. It was originally built in 1915 by the FB Guild Furniture Company.
Broderick said initially when the school purchased the building in late 2015 - during the 100th year anniversary of the building's construction - they soon knew the roof was going to be an issue.
When the school decided to include an educational studio for robotics, filmmaking, TED talk presentations, entrepreneurship and design spaces at the school, he said it then needed to meet current state codes for places of assembly and education. The school then went in and discovered the way the first floor was constructed did not meet modern engineering standards.
"So then we knew we were going to have to take the whole floor out," Broderick said.
Engineers then tested the building's pilasters on the south side of the building, which showed them to be ungrouted and unreinforced. Their masonry strength was 1,100 PSI - below modern standards of 1,500 to 2,100 PSI.
Broderick said insulating the building with modern spray foam will recoup the difference in costs between building new and renovating within 10 years.
"If we are going to spend multi millions of dollars on Main Street for the town and our own betterment," he continued, "then we have the responsibility that we are investing that money wisely.
Broderick said in conversations with the Lake Placid-North Elba Joint Review Board, its chairman Bill Hurley and code enforcement officer Jim Morganson, the school was told it could do anything with the structure if it was completely torn down.
Still, Broderick said the school intends to replicate the historic storefront "as much as we can." He said changes will include moving the building's elevator closer to Main Street and removing the historic stairwell on the exterior of the southside of the building. Broderick said multiple people, including Morganson, told him to try to replicate the stairwell as it "tells a story." With the stairwell removed, Broderick said the school plans to install more windows to provide natural light on the southside.
With the tear down, Broderick said demolition will be "much more efficient," as previously the school was using a four-wheeler to lug debris out of the interior. Broderick said the build will take roughly 11 months and will begin when the approval process is complete with the review board and/or the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Broderick said he intends to submit the demolition permit to the town on Monday, anticipates two to three more meetings with the review board and perhaps an additional meeting with the ZBA. He said it is unclear to the school if variances will be needed considering they will be using the same footprint.
As for the replication of the storefront, Broderick said the school's architects hired a 3D rendering company to laser scan the entire building.
"As a historian, what really matters to me is that classic storefront," Broderick said. "The leaded glass that sits above the big windows, the big windows that open up - we have kind of those display areas. ...Where it's going to come down to, as a historian, is the finishes. We want to try to match the original finishes as well."
The former With Pipe and Book is one of two buildings Northwood purchased in late 2015 for more than $2 million. The other is the old Lake Placid Club Balsams Cottage on Norsnol Road, which the school plans to use for student housing, though the approval process is also currently under review by the board. Broderick said Friday the school's investment in Northwood On Main would run "north of $3 million."