Piece by piece, a four-man crew used a cutting torch to rip through a 3,000 pound roller on a printing press at the former Columbus Ledger-Enquirer building on Wednesday.
Dismantling the old 1960s printing press is a big step in preparing the site for Columbus State University, who plans to bring the College of Education and Health Professions downtown. When the $20 million to $25 million project is completed by fall 2016, it will bring 1,800 students and faculty to a 90,000-square-foot college on 12th Street and Broadway.
The building at 17 W. 12th St. was the newspaper’s home for 84 years before it moved in January to the Hardaway Building at 945 Broadway.
Ryan Wampler, project manager for general contractor Brasfield & Gorrie, said W.T. Miller of Columbus started some selective demolition a month ago in the building with asbestos removal and dismantling the old press near the loading dock on Front Avenue. It will take the crew another five weeks to remove the press.
The press was installed about 1960, but it hadn’t been used in more than 20 years. Wampler said a new press was installed during the late 1980s, but it would have cost too much at the time to remove the old one.
“Now that we are putting a new facility in that place, we need space to put the mechanical equipment,” he said. “The most reasonable place to put that equipment is in the basement of the building where the printing press is. We are systematically dismantling the printing press and removing it piece by piece because that is the way it was installed there.”
The steel rollers that weigh up to 3,500 pounds may be recycled. Wampler said he also has been amazed at some of the materials used to construct the historic building. Pieces have included riveted columns, gravity fed fire doors and artifacts such as light fixtures and other pieces. The company is salvaging as many pieces as possible for reuse.
Chris Chappell, construction superintendent for Brasfield and Gorrie, said workers examined many items before the demolition started.
“We didn’t just walk in and start swinging,” he said. “We actually wanted to look at things first and examine things.”
The crew found a granite fireplace in the tower building that they plan to save. It will be placed in the 1930s Mediterranean-style building or the new facility.
Chappell said he can’t wait to pull up the carpet in the historic building and look at the wood floors.
“You can walk across it and it just creaks,” he said. “It sounds like you are in an old building. It already has been determined that we can save it. They are certain it’s going to be re-sanded and polished.”
Over the next three months, demolition will continue at the site, with crews moving from the mailroom on the south end of the property north to the lobby and tower at 12th Street and Broadway. After the tower is leveled, Wampler said renovation of the historic 1930s building and the 1950s building will start along with new construction of a 60,000-square-foot facility.
At the peak of the construction, Brasfield and Gorrie will have 100 to 150 workers on the site erecting steel, roofing, paint and other phases of the construction.
Christa Mitchell Robbins, communications specialist at CSU, said the new building is part of a campaign goal to raise $100 million. She said $61 million has been raised, including $18.5 million in private funds for the new building alone.
“We really want to modernize our facilities for our College of Education students and nursing students,” she said. “We are going to have a new classroom building that’s really going to keep students engaged in the classroom.”