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Sunnyside seeks answers for downtown brick buildings

The city of Sunnyside is looking for a few good ideas in stabilizing the brick buildings in its downtown core.

One of the brick buildings, at 520 S. Sixth Street, has already had the back portion removed due to safety concerns.

Chuck Egley of Yakima owns the building, which at one time was a Hallmark greeting card store, and is working with engineers and contractors to see what it would take to stabilize the rest of the building.

Egley said he received an initial estimate that it would cost $87,000 to fix the building.

"There's no way I would consider fixing it for that much," said Egley. "I only paid $65,000 for it three years ago."

Egley said he wants to know the exact cost of what it would take to rehab his building before he agrees to fixing it up.

"I want to get the figures right before I do anything," he said.

Tim Bardell of Sunnyside-based B7 Engineering is one of the people Egley has worked with in trying to find an answer.

Egley is not alone in seeking to better support a brick building in downtown Sunnyside.

Just down the street, in fact, Bardell is also researching an answer for the Beck's Jeweler building, a brick building that is of a similar age to Egley's.

As far as Egley's building goes, Bardell said he's waiting to hear whether or not the owner wants to proceed.

Besides shoring up his building's brick walls, Egley also needs to address concerns with its roof and front canopy.

But he says he'll only go so far in rehabilitating the structure.

"I'm not going to make a new building out of one that's 75 years-old," Egley says.

Sunnyside city officials would like an answer soon, and are even planning to bring in outside consultants to gain additional perspective.

"We're trying to locate a person who specializes in unreinforced brick buildings," said Mike Storms, a building official with the city.

Storms said the city is in the process of contacting a consultant who has worked with the city of Seattle on similar issues.

"Our local engineers are great people but this may be beyond them," Storms offered. "We need to get in there to see if we really do have a problem or not (with the brick buildings)."

Storms said the city will ask the building owners for permission before having their consultant enter the buildings. The city, he said, will pay the consulting fees.

Storms said he'd like to have a consultant here "as soon as possible" to examine the old downtown buildings.

"What we really need is someone to get into the driver's seat, to be pro-active," Storms observed. He said the city is open to suggestions for saving the buildings and/or revitalizing the downtown core.

Pointing to success stories in Walla Walla and Leavenworth, he added, "The owners need to band together and save the downtown buildings or get a theme going."

If you would like to suggest an idea or help revitalize the downtown corridor, contact Storms at 837-4229.

Storms pledged that the city will do whatever it can to help.

"Believe me, the city wants to help," he said. "We would much rather see a thriving downtown than some empty buildings."

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