Fisher Street likely to reopen today

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 21, 2013

Update: The 100 block of East Fisher Street is now open. A city investigator says the area has been deemed safe after a final inspection at 8:45 a.m. today.
The businesses housed in the Mowery Building have also reopened, but only on the first floor. The front of the second floor is now wrapped in a weatherproof plastic over a temporary interior wall.

SALISBURY — Fisher Street is set to open by midday after a final inspection, a city official says — just in time for the Brick Street Live concert and Salisbury’s Friday Night Out.
A gay pride festival is also planning to use the street on Saturday.
Chris Branham, the city’s code services division manager, said all that is left is a final safety inspection, which should take place around 9 a.m. today.
Work began Tuesday to remove the brick facade of the two-story Mowery Building after it became unstable last week.
The building houses three businesses — Benchwarmers, Ted’s Barber Shop and Shear Magic Hair Salon. They have been closed since last Friday night, along with a section of Fisher Street directly in front of the building.
Todd Littleton, owner of Benchwarmers at 113 E. Fisher St., said he plans to reopen his bar today, even though the building’s second floor now has just a temporary front wall.
Branham said Thursday that work on the building was progressing quickly. The building has already passed an interior inspection that took place Thursday afternoon.
“This should be wide open by lunch, for sure,” he said. “We’ll come back and inspect the work they’re doing now in the morning.”
He said it’s possible, but “highly unlikely,” that a problem will be found this morning. Officials have been checking on the process as it goes along to address any issues.
Chad Vriesema, owner of Central Piedmont Builders, said the failure of the facade was caused by both water damage and termite damage to the wood supports.
“It progressed over years, but from all the rain we had two weeks ago, that was the last culprit,” he said.
Central Piedmont Builders first constructed an interior wall to stabilize the front of the building and then began work on the facade. On Thursday, workers removed the last of the brick, down to the failure point at the bottom of the second floor.
“We were still here at 10 p.m. last night to make sure we were far along enough that they could open tomorrow,” Vriesema said.
The next step, the contractor said, is to cover the front of the building in weatherproof plastic wrap. That was set to be completed either Thursday evening or this morning.
Branham said once the work is finished, the heavy construction equipment will move out, and then a street sweeper will clear the roadway of debris.
“They’ve worked like champs out here,” he said. “The weather cooperated and they stayed on top of it, and that’s impressive on their part.”
Littleton said he’s very pleased with how fast the process has gone.
“Central Piedmont Builders, they’re a top notch group,” he said. “It’s virtually unheard of to get so much done in such a small amount of time.”
For that, the bar owner credited not only the contractor, but also historic preservation and city officials.
Vriesema said the brick facade can now be rebuilt, using steel supports instead of wood.
But Littleton, who is in the process of buying the Mowery building from current owner Juanita Ramsey, says he isn’t sure what the next step will be just yet.
Since he decided to buy the building, Littleton said he has been wanting to do some renovations, but he will have to check with the historical society. He said possibilities include adding a rooftop bar, some balconies, a restaurant and more, but he doesn’t know what can actually happen.
“We’re going to spend a lot of time putting things together with architects and engineers… and check with the historical society,” Littleton said. “But we’ve got phase one pretty much complete, which is to get everything safe and get back to business.”

Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.