What happens next? Power Cross building’s future undetermined

Published 12:05 am Friday, June 23, 2023

SALISBURY — When lightning struck the Power Cross Ministries building in Salisbury and left it in smoldering ruins, it raised the question of what would happen to such a historic building and the offices it housed.

The fire caused extensive damage to the North Ellis Street building, which is located in Salisbury’s historic district.

“There was heavy fire damage throughout the whole building,” Salisbury Fire Marshal Terry Smith said. “The roof is pretty much gone on the whole structure.”

The lightning strike generated such intense heat that it ignited a fire only exacerbated by the building’s old materials.

“Due to the construction of the building and the age of the building, the lightning strike caused an aggressive, fast-moving fire,” Smith said.

Not every material used in the building’s construction burned. According to Smith, the brick walls remained mostly intact after local fire departments extinguished the blaze.

Whenever a fire damages a residential building, the structure is subsequently deemed to be in violation of the Salisbury city code.

“Any building that suffered from fire damage is in violation of the minimum housing ordinance because it is unsecured,” said Michael Cotilla, the Salisbury code services coordinator. But Power Cross “is not a residential structure since no one was habitating it.”

The commercial nature of the building muddies the waters a bit.

“Since it’s a commercial structure, the minimum housing does not apply,” Cotilla said. “We currently do not have a commercial ordinance — it gets a little gray.”

With a residential structure fire, Cotilla indicated that the homeowner would have 60 days to return it to compliance. The clock doesn’t necessarily start ticking as soon as the fire department drives away, as fire marshal inspections can take some time.

“A deviation could occur if the fire marshal says that we are still under investigation,” Cotilla said. “Typically, I will wait a couple of weeks and then follow up with the fire marshal.”

Given the structure’s location in the historic district, if the owners wanted to demolish it, that decision would have to go before the Salisbury Historic Preservation Commission.

“(The commission has) the ability to delay it 365 days, but (does) not have the ability to deny the demolition,” Cotilla said.

Should the owners choose to restore the building, the timetable can be bumped out even more.

“If they want to move forward with preservation because it is in the historic preservation district, it takes considerably more time to restore because you have to abide by the guidelines,” Cotilla said. “If they wanted to preserve it, they have that right, and I would work with them on timelines. Like any minimum housing case, if they are not showing the effort, ordering materials, then at that point, we would move forward with enforcement.”

Cotilla indicated the city had yet to issue any notice on the Power Cross building as of this week.

Power Cross Director of Operations Corey Knight said on Wednesday that they are still waiting on insurance.

“We don’t have plans for that building at this time,” Knight said.

Power Cross is a youth sports ministry for young boys, and the building that burned was only one of the buildings on the organization’s Salisbury campus. According to Knight, it primarily served as an administrative building, so the disruption to its ministry services has been minimal.

“We have moved all of our operations into the other building on site that we have generally called our academic building,” Knight said. “We repurposed some of the classrooms into some office space … we are making it work and are functioning very well.”

Fortunately, Knight explained that the young men his ministry serves have been resilient.

“The first day they came and saw it, they were like, oh woah, that is crazy,” Knight said. “But since then, they have been in a regular routine, showing up for practice.”

For now, Knight plans to continue offering the help they can until they can chart a path forward.

“We heard it could be a lengthy process,” Knight said. “They have not even had engineers coming to look at it yet, because stuff shifts in the weeks after a fire. Now that we have had rain all week, it could affect how everything is sitting.”

Knight indicated they were not starting a GoFundMe in the fire’s wake since June was their official giving month.

To donate, go to powercross.org and follow the link on the home page.