- Associated Press - Sunday, April 20, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The city is considering tearing down Lincoln’s 57-year-old auditorium, the Pershing Center, to make way for redevelopment.

Engineering consulting firm Alfred Benesch & Co. will look at the potential demolition costs as part of a $10,000 contract with the city.

Demolishing Pershing will help the city in finding a private developer, the city’s public works director told the Lincoln Journal Star (http://bit.ly/1eOMTg3).

“We think Pershing’s transition to what comes next will be expedited if the building is demolished,” said Miki Esposito in an email response to questions about the Benesch contract.

Demolition costs varied widely in the redevelopment plans the city received in 2012 when it first sought proposals for the Pershing site, Esposito said.

“We wanted to get a better handle on those costs to determine if the city can afford to demolish Pershing in the near future or whether demolition will have to be part of a larger redevelopment plan,” Esposito said.

The city expects to have the Benesch report in hand by Tuesday to use in developing its Capital Improvement Plan, a budget-related document that lists work the city hopes to do over the next two years.

The cost will determine whether the city can afford to demolish the building or whether it might be part of the negotiations when the property is sold for development, Esposito said.

The building has asbestos and the city also wants to know what kind of environmental care will be required, Esposito said.

Demolition was part of two of the three redevelopment plans offered for the square block in 2012.

The third proposal, converting the building into a city library, might have involved tearing down the building, but that decision would have been made at a later date.

Mayor Chris Beutler rejected all three proposals, primarily because they involved too much city funding.

Benesch is conducting an engineering analysis and an environmental and hazardous materials assessment of the building and the site, and will provide a cost estimate for demolition under the contract.

The survey includes a hazardous materials and asbestos analysis, including cost of abatement or disposal.

Omaha is looking for proposals to build a mixed-use development on the site of its 50-year-old Civic Auditorium.

Mayor Jean Stothert is asking developers to buy the property, demolish the building and build something completely different.

Lincoln’s Pershing Center opened in March 1957. It was built for about $2.5 million on land purchased from the school district.

It will close at the end of August, a year after the new Pinnacle Bank Arena opened. Tom Lorenz, who manages both the auditorium and the new arena, is still booking events for Pershing Center in August and hopes to have a final concert scheduled at the end of that month.

The city has been subsidizing the Pershing Center since 1997, generally at a cost of $500,000 or more a year.

Though some people would like to see the city find a use for the building rather than demolish it, the most controversy has been over saving a mural on the west side of the building.

The mural is comprised of 763,000 1-inch-square ceramic tiles assembled into 1-by-2-foot panels in Cincinnati and shipped to Lincoln.

Moving the mural would likely be more expensive than it is worth.

The mural itself is not historically significant. And it is questionable whether keeping the mural would be worth a large investment or effort, historic preservation planner Ed Zimmer said.

It is not installed in a way that makes it easily removable, Zimmer has said.


Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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