COURTESY TED BEILER/PIGEONS VIEW PHOTOGRAPHY

Damage to structure is too severe, city is told

The latest plan to redevelop the historic Hotel Putnam in Downtown DeLand has hit a snag: The building could fall down anytime.

Read more: Putnam owner seeking demo contractor

The news about the 1923 building’s rapidly deteriorating condition broke just before the end of the year, when the City of DeLand released an engineer’s report on the 100-year-old hotel. That report had been ordered by the City of
DeLand in September, when Chief Building Official Joe Levrault deemed the building unsafe after its demolition phase had finished.

BEACON PHOTO/BARB SHEPHERD
SURVEYING HER DEMISE — Mark Shuttleworth, left, and James Candalino survey damage at the Hotel Putnam, 225 W. New York Ave. in DeLand. As the owner of Florida Victorian Architectural Antiques, Shuttleworth has been involved in many salvage projects at doomed historic buildings.

“The building may collapse in part or whole in near future based on the level of deterioration seen in these pictures that has taken place since last summer,” the report prepared by structural engineer Bora Erbilen said. “It is my recommendation to demolish this building in whole.”

Jeremy Long, a managing partner with Axia Partners, said his company’s demolition in preparation for rebuilding the Putnam into apartments was done by the book and with “multiple levels of oversight.”

“It is obvious, though,” he said, “that the building did not react well to being
touched. Which is disappointing to everyone involved.”

Some in the community have speculated that Axia intended all along to demolish the Hotel Putnam and construct a new building in its place. Long said no.

“You gotta be pretty dumb to throw 100s of thousands of dollars and waste a year on something that we planned to scrape all along,” he said.

But if the building does come down, Long said, Axia wants to stay involved.

“We are committed to working with the city to develop something meaningful on the site,” he said.

Asked whether insurance would cover damage to the building Axia bought in
2021 for $2.325 million, Long said he did not know.

PHOTO BY TED BEILER/PIGEONS VIEW PHOTOGRAPHY
Drone photographs taken by Ted Beiler’s Pigeons View Photography show some of the work that has taken place at the Hotel Putnam, including the removal of concrete and wood flooring on the ground floor, and the removal of roofs, windows and windowsills. The photo, taken this summer, appears to show tracks where heavy equipment was driven through an opening made in a wall, and a post in that opening.

City officials aren’t too happy about the building’s condition, either.

“We are disappointed to receive the news that the Putnam has been deemed structurally compromised,” Mayor Chris Cloudman said in a statement. “The building has stood for many years in the heart of our Downtown, and it is my hope that the property will be redeveloped in a manner that pays homage to the once prestigious hotel.”

The worst damage is on the east wing of the hotel, where its sand bricks appear to be collapsing. Engineer Erbilen discussed the east wing in his report.

“It is my professional opinion that the section of the building in the pictures has damaged beyond the point of repair and I don’t believe it is salvageable, and the remainder of the building should also come down, as in my professional opinion during the demolition of the East Wing that the
remainder of the building will experience further deterioration as well,” Erbilen wrote. “It is my recommendation to demolish this building in whole.”

Since the danger of collapse may constitute an emergency, the City of DeLand Land Development Regulations give Chief Building Official Levrault the power to order immediate action to remove the danger, including full demolition, the city said.

But that’s not likely to happen, at least not right away, City of DeLand spokesman Chris Graham said.

“Based on the engineer’s report, yes, it could possibly collapse at any time, but no,” Graham said. “Something like demolishing that type of building, especially in relation to State Road 44 and other structures? No, it’s not coming down tomorrow.

PHOTOS BY TED BEILER/PIGEONS VIEW PHOTOGRAPHY
The photo, taken Jan. 1, shows the inside of the opening, and a post leaning against a side of the opening.

RECENT HISTORY OF THE PUTNAM

2018- Orlando resident Mohamed Rashad purchases the Hotel Putnam for around $1 million with big plans to rehabilitate the historic structure. What followed was a tumultuous relationship between Rashad and the city. Over the course of owning the building, Rashad would sink another $1 million into repairs, demolition and construction work. His ownership of the property was plagued with everything from graffiti and vandalism to his bumpy relationships with city officials.

September 2021- Rashad sells the Hotel Putnam for $2.325 million to Axia Partners, a Utah-based real estate investing firm. According to the company’s website at www.axiapartners.com, the company’s “unique approach identifies real estate opportunities that have not previously been positioned correctly to maximize income potential and capture competitive disposition valuations.”

December 2021- The Putnam’s new owners quickly produce new plans to revitalize the property and fill it with apartment units. The city’s Historic Preservation Board had mixed feelings about the plans, though, which involved steps such as removing the turrets atop the Putnam’s east and west towers. Of the four members present at the December 2021 meeting, three were enthusiastic about the Putnam’s new plans, but member Charles Jordan was less than pleased. “It may be a beautiful project when we’re done. I’m not saying it won’t be,” Jordan said. “But it won’t be the Hotel Putnam restored. It will be an adaptive reuse without respect for historic
preservation.”

September 2022- With work on the Putnam’s demolition phase finished, DeLand’s Chief Building Official Joe Levrault issues a stop-work order after touring the building. While a structural engineer’s report was already called for with demolition completed, Levrault was especially concerned about the building’s safety. “Given what I saw structurally, added to what I asked the structural engineer to address in his last visit, I have no choice but to post the structure as ‘Unsafe,’” Levrault said at the time. Demolition ordered by Axia had cleared out much of the building’s internal components, as well as removed windows and their masonry sills, and the building’s iconic turrets.

December 2022- The structural engineer’s report ordered in September finds that the Putnam could collapse at any time. With the building’s structural integrity in question, and a structural engineer recommending its demolition, it’s up to the city to decide what comes next. City Community Information Manager Chris Graham said the city would discuss what comes next for the building, especially with its proximity to State Road 44, possibly at the City Commission’s Jan. 3 meeting.

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