Bought and paid for three years ago in an "as is" condition, the deteriorating American Legion building on Continental Avenue in River Edge is nearing its final days. The River Edge Mayor and Council approved in a 5-0 vote to go forward and seek cost estimates on tearing it down. Councilman Edward Mignone was absent from the vote.
"It could cost three times as much to fix it," Councilman Paul Cordts said. "At this time, so we can move forward, we should look to take it down and use the property for a better use before it becomes an eyesore."
In agreement with Cordts was Councilman Alphonse Bartelloni who suggested the borough look to eventually invest funding in expanding the Public Library and architect Peter Pulice who was hired to review the status of the American Legion.
The Dutch Colonial-style building is approximately between 80 to 90 years old but is plagued with flooding and mold issues along with not being ADA compliant.
"There is quite a bit of runoff that finds its way into the basement so there is mold and water infiltration issues," Pulice said. "It has a low ceiling in the basement and the current topography limits accessibility from an ADA standpoint. It would require a pretty substantial ramp system to be devised for entry from the parking lot."
In the past, the council had received Community Development Block Grants towards the initial purchase and goal of transforming the American Legion into a senior center. In March, the governing body voted to abandon seeking additional grants.
Pulice estimated that with the amount of work needed to make the building viable for public use, costs could run anywhere between $300,000 to $1.3 million. Along with mold remediation and bringing the building into ADA compliance, the duct work is exposed on the exterior, there is a need for new windows and roof, proper building insulation, repairs to the foundation, and electrical work. The American Legion also does not meet current borough codes as well for fire safety or ventilation.
"Due to the high water table, I would not recommend digging out the basement as it would make the infiltration problem more chronic," Pulice said. "You would need to excavate around the exterior, utilize a high level of drainage or storm water management to divert the water away.
"In my opinion and experience, renovating an older building costs more than building a new one," Pulice continued. "There are so many issues to deal with for retrofitting. I don't see the point in improving the building or spending huge amounts of money to make it work. It should probably just be removed at this point, that's just my opinion."
Once potential cost estimates have been received for tearing down the American Legion, the Council will continue its discussion on moving forward.