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Work planned to shore up site of 2019 fire

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Staff Writer | April 10, 2022 1:00 AM

Work to replace the shoring supporting in the right of way at the northeastern corner of First Avenue and Bridge Street is set to commence Monday.

The sidewalks and roadway at the intersection are retained by the remaining building foundation walls from structures removed after they were destroyed by a February 2019 fire, Sandpoint City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton said in a press release Saturday.

The fire, reported just after 1 a.m. on Feb. 11, 2019, tore at the heart of the city’s historic district and prompted an all-out response from firefighters from Selkirk Fire Rescue & EMS and fire district throughout Bonner County and part of Kootenai County.

Five businesses housed in two historic buildings were destroyed in the blaze and another third building, home to Grace Sandpoint Church and Grace Sandpoint Bible College, sustained heavy smoke and water damage.

The property sold in early 2020 and plan began taking place at a that time for a new building at the site.

In 2020, Stapleton said the new property owner was looking at a single building that faces both First Avenue and Sand Creek. At the time, she said initial discussions indicated the building could extend to the property line to take advantage of the creek view and potentially include an angled entrance at First Avenue and Bridge Street.

That would fit in with city’s plans to close the entrance from Gunnings Alley onto Bridge Street to improve safety for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers alike, Stapleton said last year.

A new sidewalk will be poured, which will ultimately be widened as a part of the city’s Phase 3 Downtown Revitalization project anticipated to begin in fall 2023, Stapleton said.

Construction at the will continue throughout the month of April through the first week of May between the hours of 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Stapleton said the work will require occasional lane closures on Bridge Street, controlled by flaggers.  The two on-street parking stalls on First Avenue will also be closed. 

Pedestrian detours adjacent to the work zone will be in place to enable removal and temporary replacement of the sidewalk. During construction, there may be times of loud noises as the new sheet walls are installed, the city administrator said.

While the city has not received a permit application for a new building to be constructed at Bridge and First, one is expected within the next few months.

Stapleton said the property owner and city officials have coordinated to expedite the right-of-way work to ensure no impacts to pedestrians or traffic beginning with the Lost in the ’50s weekend through Labor Day.

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