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Walls come tumbling down: Port Arthur demolishing downtown ruins’ remains

 

By Ken Stickney

ken.stickney@panews.com

Funded by grant money, the city of Port Arthur is demolishing the remains of six downtown buildings to make room for new development.

A crew from AAR, a demolition company in Houston, was doing painstaking work Friday on what used to be the W.T. Grant building at 701 Procter St. The company will work carefully — brick by brick, it seemed for awhile — to disassemble the building’s top floor, a safety precaution because of its proximity to an adjoining, occupied building as well as the power lines and street below.

That demolition will take at least two and possibly four weeks to complete.

Down the street, a demolition crew was demolishing an empty auto repair shop, which city employees described as the “Firestone building.” Come Monday, the city’s contractors will begin demolishing an old Texaco station at 1048 Procter.

Assistant City Manager Ron Burton said the demolitions are coming at no cost to the private property owners, but are funded through a federal grant administered by the state General Land Office. He said the money was awarded Port Arthur for damages to the city during Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Burton said the city would encourage the landowners to reinvest in their downtown properties; the lots cleared at government expense, he said, should provide them with some incentive to do something with their idle land.

Darlene Thomas-Pierre, demolition supervisor for the city’s Code Enforcement Department, said these demolitions, which under the terms of the grant must be complete by Dec. 31, represent work in the second of two demolition phases that the city has been advancing since 2009.

In the first phase, the city eliminated 99 ramshackle buildings damaged by Ike; in phase No. 2, underway since 2013, the city has cleared away a water treatment plant on 19th Street and is addressing the additional six buildings, most on Procter Street, now.

The cost of demolishing the water treatment plant was $685,000, Thomas-Pierre said; the rest of the Phase No. 2 work would cost about $246,000.