City to reinforce walls at Belk building site

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By Chris Sardelli

The walls at the old Belk building site in downtown Lancaster will soon become much safer.

Lancaster City Council recently approved a bid from local contractors Perception Builders to stabilize the walls that still remain from the old Belk building on South Main Street. The old Belk building was razed in October 2006. The city owns the property.

City Administrator Helen Sowell said the city has a plan for securing the walls and expects the work to move quickly.

"We looked at the most cost-effective way to shore the walls up and then waterproof them," Sowell said. "I've been waiting on this ever since I've been in this seat."

Sowell has been administrator for over a year.

Chad Catledge, owner of Perception Builders, said the city was concerned with stabilizing the two brick veneer walls situated next to each other on the property.

The city's engineer designed a process to connect the walls and Perception will complete the work.

Perception Builders will drill through the walls and install bolts and epoxy every four feet to tie the two walls together. Afterwards, the walls will be covered with a water-shield coating. The coating will be tinted to give the walls a uniform color.

Work will begin in early November and could be finished by the end of the month. It's expected to cost $78,233.

"The good thing about it is we save money," Catledge said. "I'm a resident of the city and my business is in the city and I'd hate to see them spend money when they don't need to."

Sowell said the city also plans facade work on the front of North South Wholesalers on the southern side of the Belk building site. Both buildings used to be connected and shared walls. When the city razed the Belk building, parts of the top front portion of the North South Wholesalers building were removed.

Heather Vivona, an employee at North South Wholesalers, said she has discussed the situation with the city many times.

"We're very happy with what Mrs. Sowell is doing," Vivona said. "She's been wonderful in explaining the process."

Vivona would like to construct a decorative facade for the building and plans to work with See Lancaster and the city to obtain a grant to improve the facade.

Sowell hopes to find a developer for the empty lot, but for now, the city plans to use it for vendors at the open-air Lancaster Street Markets.

The Belk building was demolished in 2006 after the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control recommended that it be torn down.

The building was also home to B.C. Moore and Sons after Belk left downtown Lancaster in the 1970s.

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at csardelli@thelancasternews.com or (803) 416-8416