TEXARKANA, Ark. — Emergency demolition of the former Regency House building downtown could begin by mid-October and is expected to cost about $500,000.
City Public Works Director Tyler Richards plans to continue seeking bids for the project through Sept. 27, he said Thursday, stressing the process is complex and any projected timelines are subject to change.
The city will pay for the demolition from its reserve fund, City Manager Kenny Haskin said.
On Aug. 14, the Regency House's extensively damaged roof collapsed through the remains of the floor beneath, destabilizing the structure and creating the possibility of falling debris. The city immediately blocked access to the street and sidewalk in front of the building and closed the park next door.
"The public is protected right now and will remain so until the completion of the demolition," Richards said.
The city will place a lien on the property for the cost of the demolition to try to recoup its expenses, the only option available to hold property owners responsible for structures abandoned to become unsafe. The cost of demolition is so high that it is unlikely anyone will ever purchase the property and pay the city's lien, Richards has said.
The building, at 110 E. Broad St., was condemned in 2011, and it has been forfeited to the state because of more than $740 in unpaid taxes. The Arkansas Commissioner of State Lands last attempted to auction off the land in May but has not found a buyer.
When the city Board of Directors approves condemning a structure, notice is given to the property's owner that they have 30 days to obtain a building or demolition permit. If the owner fails to do so, the city may proceed with demolition itself.
The property's last owner of record is a company called A.V.S. International Group Inc., doing business as Guta Lands USA, with a principal address in Fayetteville, Arkansas, according to state incorporation records and Miller County property tax records. The state lists the company's status as "not current." Guta Lands bought the property in 2015 for an estimated $84, and it has an estimated market value of $9,850.
The property's history dates to 1878, when it was first deeded to a local Masonic lodge, according to previous Gazette reports.
A general store operated on the site until the building burned down in 1885. Operators of a dry goods store, Texarkana National Bank and again the Freemasons in turn owned a new brick building at the address.
From 1945 to 1978, a department store started by William Dillard, later founder of the Dillard's chain, operated in the building.
The building was vacant from 1979 to 1988, when it became home to Regency House, a retailer of china, crockery and glassware. It has been vacant since 2002.