Iconic Hobbs Building Now in City’s Hands
On June 21, the city started work to remove and repair the iconic onion dome atop the Hobbs building.
Due to significant structural deficiencies, multiple unresolved citations and serious public safety concerns, the City of Aurora accepted the donation of the historic Hobbs building, 2 N. River Street, on the afternoon of Tuesday, June 21, 2016 and immediately began emergency repairs.
The City of Aurora began the process by removing the “onion” dome, which had been deemed structurally unsound. It is the City’s intention to see that the dome is replaced when the building is redeveloped.
“The Hobbs building is significant to our downtown, both historically and architecturally, and deserves to be preserved going forward,” said Mayor Tom Weisner. “We exhausted every measure in our attempts to force the owner of the Hobbs building to properly maintain the building. Unfortunately, the law gives us little leverage over property owners who let their properties fall into serious disrepair. As the City assumes ownership of this historic building, our first priority is to stabilize the structure and eliminate any possible danger to the public. Then, we will work with Invest Aurora on identifying a viable redevelopment partner. Over the past few years, there has been more than $100 million in investment in downtown Aurora along River Street. I firmly believe the Hobbs building is in an ideal location to continue this growth and development.”
Over the past four years alone, the City has cited the Hobbs building owner 8 times for violations ranging from vacant property registration and zoning violations to more critical internal and external building violations, including an unsecured elevator shaft, frame damage, holes in the roof, broken windows and the unstable and shifting dome. For many of these violations, the City of Aurora stepped in to handle the repair work for the sake of public safety.
Due to continued concerns, earlier this year, the City of Aurora filed legal action to require additional repairs. The owner recently agreed to donate the historic building to the City rather than assume any additional repair costs.
Prior to accepting the property, the City of Aurora engaged two structural engineering consultants, both of whom concluded that the existing conditions of the building are dangerous to the public and further temporary efforts to salvage the dome are futile.
The City immediately removed the leaning dome and will reframe the roof over the resulting opening and perform additional weatherproofing measures. Temporary lane closures on Eastbound Galena and Southbound River will be coordinated with progress of the work on the building, which is projected to last as long as 10 days.
In order to satisfy the historic FoxWalk Guidelines, the permit being issued for the dome demolition will require replacement of the dome in the future as part of redevelopment efforts of the property.
Prior to the news, a downtown resident organized a grassroots meeting to save the Hobbs building to take place at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 5 at the gazebo at Millennium Plaza on Stolp Avenue in downtown Aurora. Dianne Sizemore, a resident at Leland Tower, said that words have been cheap and that people who care about the historic building need to organize to save it. The meeting is still scheduled for Tuesday.
Built in 1892 as a furniture store and loft building, the Romanesque Revival building, located at the corner of Galena Blvd. and River St. in downtown Aurora, features an onion dome, intricate brick detailing in the semicircular arches over the third story windows, and decorative pressed metal on the piers. For decades, it was the centerpiece to downtown events, including Fourth of July Festivities.
For some thoughts and a history of the Hobbs, click here