Recently, we brought you the story of how asbestos saved Spokane’s historic Davenport Hotel–a grand old building from the Golden Age of American Architecture. If the Davenport can be compared to, say, a classic automobile like the 1932 Dusenberg, the Coachman Motel in Bloomington, Illinois, is a rusted-out 1981 Yugo–a squat, ugly building cheaply constructed from cinderblocks that few people, if any, will be sorry to see demolished.
As in the case of the Davenport however, the presence of asbestos has granted the Coachman a stay of execution. For several years, the municipal government battled with the building’s former owner in attempts to force him to remodel and bring the building up to code. Last year, the city took over the building and approved its demolition.
The city has committed to paying for the demolition, planning to recoup the costs through the sale of the property. It was known that the Coachman, constructed almost fifty years ago, contained asbestos, and this was taken into consideration when various contractors submitted their bids to the City of Bloomington. It was the removal of asbestos wallboard and insulation that led to the discovery of additional asbestos–in the form of vermiculite–inside the cinder blocks. Vermiculite was used primarily for insulation and soundproofing. By itself, vermiculite is a harmless form of clay. However, because it is frequently found near asbestos sources, it is often contaminated. Tom Kirk of Kirk’s C&D Recycling, which came in with the winning bid of $187,000, has stated that the discovery of the additional asbestos will add to the cost of the project. Mark Huber, Planning and Code Enforcement Director for the city of Bloomington, agrees.
“We know we have a problem but we haven’t determined how we are going to solve it,” he said. “It is premature to say it will come down in a month. We don’t know yet.” In addition, the original plan has already been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Removal of the asbestos-contaminated vermiculite may require a new plan. The original plan stated that Kirk’s company would recycle as much of the old material as possible in order to minimize landfill costs and environmental impact. Now, one solution being considered is to declare the building contaminated and simply haul everything to a landfill. In the meantime, the contractor is going ahead with the original plan while the city decides on a course of action.