Town leaders are considering the cost of rehabilitating the Watson House at 700 N. First Ave. in the historic part of Knightdale to make the property into a public space.
The house, which was part of the land acquisition that became Knightdale Station Park, has been untouched for two years until December, when the town paid $3,000 for Rocky Mount-based architecture firm Oakley-Collier to assess the property.
At the last Town Council meeting, Oakley-Collier came with an estimate for repairs to bring the house up to code for public use: $226,462.
“What I’ve tried to give you is a worst-case scenario for bringing this property up to speed,” Oakley-Collier architect Franki Joyner told the Council.
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The report suggested the town hire an exterminator to assess termite damage and bring in professionals to check for asbestos and mold.
Structurally, the firm said the house was mostly OK, although they suggested raising the entire structure, a $20,000 project. That project, however, would not be required.
Luckily for the town, Joyner told the Council, there are certain things that can be left alone because of the house’s status as a historical structure.
Some things, like accesibility standards according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, don’t have to be in place in the house for it to be up to code because of its age. Oakley-Collier did include some of those cost projections in their report, though, since the house would eventually be used for the public and accesiblity for all residents would be important.
The firm included all estimates but Joyner said they can remove those from the final number if the town wants to.
Town Council decided to hold off of any major decision on the property until Mayor Pro Tem Mike Chalk was present. He wasn’t able to come to the Feb. 19 meeting.
Mayor Russell Killen suggested the town move forward with asbestos testing as soon as possible though.
“(I think that might be) the deciding factor,” Killen said.
Right now, the town doesn’t have a plan for the house once it is up to code. A lot of that decision depended on its condition.
“We really don’t have a good idea of what we’re going to do with this property,” Town Manager Seth Lawless said.
In 2011, when the town first acquired the home, the decision of what to do with the house was left to the Old Town Oversight Committee. Former owner and former Knightdale Mayor Billy Wilder suggested the idea of a museum that doubled as a place to hold small events, but the committee didn’t take any steps to assign a purpose to the building.