Awning on vacant theater suspected to be unsafe

Kathryn Cargo By Kathryn Cargo

Nov. 29, 2017 at 10:21 p.m.
Updated Nov. 30, 2017 at 7 a.m.

City officials are concerned that the awning on a longtime vacant theater at 206 E. Constitution St. is unsafe and violates city code.

City officials are concerned that the awning on a longtime vacant theater at 206 E. Constitution St. is unsafe and violates city code.   Kathryn Cargo for The Victoria Advocate

Victoria officials suspect the awning on an old vacant theater at 206 E. Constitution St. is a safety hazard in a high foot-traffic downtown area.

On Nov. 15, the city's code enforcement office posted a public hearing notice on the building that states, "Inspection of the above referenced property has revealed suspected violations of the standards ... of the Victoria City Code."

A hearing is pending for Jan. 25 before the Victoria Building and Standards Commission.

"It's the structural integrity of it," said Julie Fulgham, director of city development services. "It's deteriorating. It's a public safety concern. What we're concerned about is trafficked areas in the downtown area."

The state of the awning was brought to the attention of city officials by the Victoria Fire Marshal's Office before Hurricane Harvey, Fulgham said.

At a hearing, officials would present why the awning doesn't meet codes and recommend the commission order the owner to repair it, Fulgham said. The commission would then determine whether the awning should be demolished or repaired.

20171129135510051 by Anonymous MLrzDo on Scribd

"There will be a chance for the owner to say what he wants to do with the awning," she said.

Attorney Bernard Klimist would represent the owner, Brad Richards, if there is a hearing. Klimist said the issue will probably be resolved long before the hearing date.

Klimist said although he has yet to officially inspect the awning, it appears to be structurally sound.

"That awning is just like it was before Harvey," he said. "It survived a Category 4 hurricane, and it's still the same. Other than the appearance of it, I'm curious to see what the city believes is dangerous about it."

Klimist said that before the hearing, city officials and Richards will probably have engineers inspect the awning.

"At the face of it, I'm at a loss because before all this happened, it was insured and passed an insurance inspection and went through a Category 4 hurricane," he said. "I'm not really sure what could test it more than that."

Officials called for a hearing because Richards didn't respond to the first notice about the awning, Fulgham said.

If a property owner doesn't comply with an order issued by the commission, the city will repair the structure and file a property lien on the building.

"We haven't received any correspondence back in regard to the awning," said Juan Briones, city senior code enforcement officer.

City officials previously asked the owner to secure the building in March 2016 when a broken window and side door to the theater was open, Fulgham said. Richards voluntarily complied and secured the building by boarding up the openings.

Klimist said Richards' ultimate goal is to renovate the theater to honor its late owner and his previous partner, Rubin Frels. He said he didn't know when Richards would begin renovations. Klimist said he's not certain why renovations haven't begun but said litigation over the property and Hurricane Harvey were hurtles Richards had to overcome.

"I can promise you if he restores the building, it will not have an awning with the appearance that one has," he said. "If he's going to restore it to honor Rubin, it will be restored whether or not the city can show it's a danger or not."

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