Despite weather, first phase of Taylor project still on schedule

Posted: January 2, 2013

The Winchester Star

James Dokes of Winchester, an employee of Dehaven's Masonary, Concrete & Excavating, works on a steel I-beam from atop a ladder during the ongoing Taylor Hotel renovation project Monday. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)
Garlin Estep of Timberville works at the top of a temporary wall at the old Taylor Hotel that is being moved to accommodate the Loudoun Street Mall infrastructure improvement project, which begins today. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — Despite a couple of days of snow, the project to demolish part of the former Taylor Hotel building and stabilize the rest is on schedule as it reaches a midway point.

“We’re where we expected to be, right where we anticipated being,” Mike Knight, construction superintendent for Broadway’s Lantz Construction, the company contracted to complete the first phase of the redevelopment effort, said late Monday morning. “Overall I’d say it’s going really well.”

The barricade along the Loudoun Street Mall was in the process of being moved closer to the former hotel building at that point, he said, and that relocation would be completed by day’s end. The barrier had to be moved because a major mall construction begins today.

Crews began working Nov. 5 on the initial phase of the project at 119-129 N. Loudoun St. When that work wraps up in February, the Winchester Economic Development Authority (EDA) and private partner Taylor Pavilion LLC will begin the redevelopment of the property.

The front section will have a restaurant on the ground floor and English basement, with five apartments upstairs. The seven-story rear flytower might become an indoor climbing wall or commercial space on the ground floor and condominiums upstairs.

A grassy pavilion area and a nine-bay farmers market will be installed in place of the demolished midsection.

Jim Deskins, the EDA’s executive director, said Monday that he’s pleased with the progress to date. The only hitch has been the need to remove some rock so the new foundation can be laid.

“In the southeast corner,” he said, “we found a couple of pinnacles of rock we have to knock off. But that’s par for the course in Winchester.”

The need to excavate arose because the existing basement ceiling height was only about 6 feet. The ceiling height of the refurbished English basement will be about 9 feet.

Lantz is being paid $1.18 million for its work, which is part of the property’s estimated $3.6 million redevelopment cost.

The alley between the Taylor building and 115 N. Loudoun St. was reopened for a few weeks to accommodate holiday shoppers, but Knight said it’s been closed again. About two-thirds of the north wall of that passageway has been demolished; the rest will stand until near the end of the project because it helps stabilize the front section of the building.

Steel work on supports for a section of wall that will remain between the Taylor building and 131 N. Loudoun St. is expected to begin this week, Knight said.

The top part of that wall will be removed, and the brick will be saved to be used later in the project, Knight said. Removing and cleaning individual bricks is the most painstaking part of Phase I.

“That has to be done by hand,” he said. “You can’t do it mechanically.”

Knight estimated that about 80 percent of that labor-intensive work is completed.

The Taylor Hotel building was used as a headquarters by both the Confederate and Union armies during the Civil War and was used as a hospital in 1864 following the Third Battle of Winchester. Confederate Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson established a temporary headquarters there in 1861.

But the building deteriorated from neglect over the years, a process accelerated by a partial roof collapse in 2007.

Many people have been interested in the building’s fate, and Knight said people often check out the progress or ask questions about the project.

“They’re anxious to see what’s going on,” he said. “We’ll see them standing alongside the fence at Indian Alley, looking at the parts that are coming down. They’re curious about what’s going to come down and basically what this phase consists of.”

Deskins said competitive negotiations are ongoing for Phase II of the projects, and he was optimistic that the cost will be set soon. The goal is to begin that work immediately after the first phase concludes, with the entire project completed by the end of 2013.

— Contact Vic Bradshaw at vbradshaw@winchesterstar.com