By Kevin Collison
Artist Peregrine Honig envisions a new future for the crumbling, historic building that once housed Seiden’s Furs at 10th and Broadway, but she needs the owner to sell it for a reasonable price first.
Honig, one of the city’s better known and nationally-exhibited artists, first fell for the brick building completed around 1874 about a decade ago, and has visited it at least a half-dozen times over the years.
“I’m so attracted to older buildings, they’re such a turn on, and I was turned on to this building and it’s potential,” she said.
She met the owner, Dan Shaffer, at a pop-up fur sale.
After touring the two-story building, sometimes accompanied by friends in the development and architecture fields who provided professional advice, she made an offer of $170,000.
She said Shaffer politely turned her down.
Shaffer, who could not be reached for comment, is reportedly seeking $1.3 million for the long vacant property.
Things have become more urgent since Honig last spoke to Shaffer a year ago.
Last week, the city declared it a dangerous structure after a portion of the roof collapsed into the second floor. A city inspector reported it had experienced significant water damage over the years.
Some people refer to what’s happening to 935 Broadway as demolition by neglect.
Honig described the interior of the old structure as like visiting a “Ripley’s Believe it or Not!” exhibit.
A big part of the basement is dominated by a 20-foot diameter bin that was used to clean fur coats with a mixture that included walnut shells.
“It still works and could be a piece of modern art,” she said.
The remainder of the basement holds old fur coats that have been stored there for years, most of them in reasonable, but not sellable, condition, Honig said.
“What I was trying to pitch to Dan was that, with winter coming, we could get the fur coats in the hands of homeless people,” she said. “We could prevent some deaths.”
And being an artist, Honig contemplated taking photos of the recipients wearing the coats accompanied by their stories.
Upstairs, she said the first floor has been used to store furniture and there’s a room full of cardboard boxes she considered a fire hazard. The first floor also features stained-glass windows behind wooden facades that Honig said were exquisite.
The upper floor where the roof partially collapsed is being used to store miscellaneous items.
Honig’s vision is to convert the old building into affordable artist studios that would rent for $200- to $400 per month. She even has a name, Seiden’s Art Studios. The basement would make a great speakeasy, she added.
“The lighting is good, I know that as an artist,” Honig said.
Jay Tomlinson, a principal at Helix Architecture + Design, is one of her friends who’s visited the building.
He’s had substantial experience with historic preservation projects and estimated it would cost about $2.1 to restore the 14,000 square-foot Seiden’s Furs building.
“I’ve renovated hundreds of buildings like this and I know the numbers,” he said.
Tomlinson suggested the $170,000 offer to Honig two years ago, and estimated the vacant structure, which has no parking, could be worth $200,00 today.
Jackson County estimated its market value at $316,135 in 2019.
“Peregrine has been trying to get this guy (Shaffer) to save the building but he’s not,” Tomlinson said.
“He’s not an obstructionist, but he’s also not motivated.”
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