The City of Aberdeen is moving forward with plans to demolish the old Pioneer Paper Building on Heron Street.
At its last meeting, the City Council approved a call for bids to tear down the brick and steel building at 419 E. Heron St., highly visible by eastbound Highway 12 travelers just before the Heron Street Bridge.
In September 2018, the City of Aberdeen closed off the section of sidewalk and the parking spaces directly in front of the building, as the second-story facade had begun to lean out over the sidewalk. Later, the city added steel beams to further reinforce the wall.
A report from city Community Development Director Lisa Scott described the building as “dilapidated” and “in danger of collapsing and is an immediate threat to life, health and safety.” The city recently had a structural engineer take a look at the building and “make recommendations on how the structure could be demolished while protecting the adjacent property owners, one of whom shares a common wall with the building.”
Scott told the council that the property owner “is not being responsive” to the building’s demolition, so the city will have to foot the demolition costs — because of the steps that will likely have to be taken to protect adjacent buildings, the current estimate for demolition is between $550,000 and $600,000.
The money for demolition would have to come from the city’s general fund and was not included in the the city’s annual budget. By putting a lien on the building, the city could recover some or all of its costs if the property changes hands.
“The city will work to take down the building and put a lien on the property for the amount of the abatement,” Scott told the council. Mayor Pete Schave commented that he has “been in conversation with the county on this building, and once we get the full numbers we’re going to have some discussion about partnering to remove this building, share the cost.”
The county assessor’s office lists Falcon Real Estate Group LLC of Kirkland as the building’s owner. The 5,725 square foot building was constructed in 1905.
The old Pioneer Paper Building is actually two separate buildings, said local historian Roy Vataja.
“The larger Pioneer Paper building was an early home to the notorious Fashion Saloon with ‘rooms upstairs,’” he said. “The smaller building to the right — which is missing the second floor and now totally caved in — was the Blockhouse Smith building, built by the early East County settler after whom Blockhouse Road is also named,” James “Blockhouse” Smith.
The “rooms” referenced by Vataja refer to it being part of the downtown’s then-thriving brothel scene. There were many such “sporting houses” within a few blocks of each other, Vataja said, that did brisk business from the late 1800s to the late 1950s. In a 1926-27 Polk directory for the county, there’s a listing for Fashion Rooms at 419 1/2 Heron St.
Final demolition bid acceptance and approval will come back to the council for authorization.