The downtown fire that raged for hours Thursday night has displaced two statewide organizations that have advocated for local governments for over a century.
Three buildings that house the N.C. League of Municipalities and the N.C. Association of County Commissioners on Dawson and Jones streets, steps away from the under-construction apartment building that caught fire, were damaged by burning embers, smoke and water.
“It’s a tough situation. All three of the buildings we use have been damaged significantly,” said Paul Meyer, executive director of the League of Municipalities. “Thankfully, none of our employees were injured. We have so much gratitude for the city. It could have been so much worse.”
When the fire began, no employees were in the buildings – the Albert Coates Local Government Center, the David Reynolds building and the S. Leigh Wilson building.
The three-story Reynolds building at 308 W. Jones St. sustained the most damage. There is structural damage to the roof and a third-floor corner of the building, according to Leon Skinner, a chief building official for Raleigh. On Tuesday, a cleanup crew could be seen clearing debris from the 20-year-old building.
The city has deemed the building structurally unsafe, and workers have not been allowed to return. The 65 League of Municipalities employees are working remotely, Meyer said.
Several offices in the Albert Coates Local Government Center, which houses the headquarters for the League of Municipalities and the Association of County Commissioners, were gutted by the fire. The two groups, both founded in 1908, worked together to erect the building in 1979.
The roof was damaged by heat and falling debris, Skinner said, and about half of the building’s interior was damaged by smoke, heat and water.
Kevin Leonard, executive director of the county commissioners group, said the roof must be replaced.
The League of Municipalities, a nonpartisan membership group that advocates for 540 cities, towns and villages in North Carolina, had planned to host its biggest event of the year at the nearby Quorum Center next week. About 600 people were expected to attend the event, which focuses on helping local government connect with state leaders.
Now the group is looking for another venue to host the event because the Quorum on Jones Street was also damaged by the fire. The League regularly holds meetings and events in the Quorum’s conference space, and the Association of County Commissioners has offices there.
Leonard said he expects it will be six to 12 months – “a conservative estimate” – before the association can resume operations at the Quorum.
The 37 employees of the association, which advocates for the state’s 100 counties, have been working from home or at public libraries, said public relations manager Lacy Pate.
“This is a major event to go through,” Leonard said. “We’re just doing things one at a time. I’ve learned very quickly that you just have to keep moving forward and keeping the long-term vision in mind.”
It’s unclear how much it will cost to repair the damage. Both groups are working with restoration companies to assess the damage and evaluate cleanup options.
Raleigh fire investigators are working to figure out what sparked the blaze that destroyed The Metropolitan apartment building.
The city has set up a streamlined system for contractors to obtain permits to repair damage, city spokesman John Boyette said.
“We’ll just keep working around this until we’re stable,” Meyer said. “We face adversity in local government every day. This is no different. We will keep on going.”
Madison Iszler: 919-836-4952; firstname.lastname@example.org