A decision to either demolish or restore the Cigar Factory in Bartow is back in the Polk County Commission’s lap.
Bartow code enforcement officials have given the county 60 days to come up with a plan to either fix the 1920s vintage building east of downtown Bartow or to demolish it.
“We’re back to square one,” County Manager Mike Herr told commissioners during an agenda study session Friday.
He said he came to that conclusion after he and his staff met with Bartow officials after receiving the code citation dated April 29.
Some county officials recommended razing the building in 2007 because of its condition, which they said made it beyond reasonable repair.
At the time, the cost of restoring the building was estimated at $4 million.
The recommendation to demolish the building came as a result of the effects of damage from the 2004 hurricanes that led to roof leaks and continued deterioration
However, the County Commission delayed action in 2007 in response to pleas from people in the community who wanted to try to raise money to save the historic building, which was built in 1925 and housed a working cigar factory until sometime in the 1960s.
Herr said Friday he didn’t see any evidence the promised fundraising effort had occurred.
County Commissioner Jean Reed asked about using various federal grant programs to pay for the building’s repair, but Herr said it’s not eligible for money from those programs.
“I don’t know that the building has a great deal of value,” Herr said, adding the property has value though it’s unclear whether there’s interest in selling it or leasing it.
In 2008, county officials broached the idea of swapping the property for some property Bartow owned in connection with the need to expand the county parking lot.
However, nothing resulted from those talks.
The building is an eyesore, and the county owns it, Herr said.
“Obviously we have to do something,” he said.
The next step will be for the staff to prepare a report and to bring the issue back to the commission at an upcoming meeting.
Deputy County Manager Jim Freeman said one of the things they will have to do is to prepare an updated evaluation of the cost of repairing or demolishing the building.
Freeman said the project may require review by the city’s Historical Architectural Review Board, whose next meeting is scheduled for July 1.
“It could be at least July before we reach closure,” Freeman said.
By Tom Palmer, The Ledger