Future of Burned Bellefonte Avenue Building to be Determined in Weeks Ahead

This building, located at 37-41 Bellefonte Ave. in downtown Lock Haven, caught fire December 16, 2016.

By LaKeshia Knarr

LOCK HAVEN – It’s been nearly two months since the fire broke out at 37-41 Bellefonte Ave. in downtown Lock Haven, ravaging a former furniture store building and affecting adjacent properties.

Now, the property owners are beginning to consider what the future holds.

Dave Mayes and Brian Osenbach, under the company name B&D Lock Haven LLC, co-own the property and had plans to turn it into an under-21 club.

The fire that broke out in the early hours of Dec. 16, 2016, put a quick halt to those plans.

“From what the insurance company has determined, it’s a total loss,” Mayes told therecord-online this week.

The owners no longer believe the under-21 club will be a possibility. However, they’re trying to remain optimistic about what’s to come.

“For the city, we’d like to see something positive come out of this, but we have no idea at this time what direction that may take,” Mayes said. “I think any downtown location that can be developed, whether by me or someone else, is a huge asset to the community.”

Singed debris still litters Willards Alley, adjacent to the building that caught fire in the early morning hours of December 16

Traveling past the property, it appears as though not much has been changed since the hours after firefighters and emergency responders left the scene.

Willards Alley, which runs adjacent to the former Wolf’s Furniture Store building and connects Bellefonte Avenue and First Street, is still closed to traffic, with singed debris lining the ground.

According to Cyndi Walker, city code and zoning officer, the city officially condemned the building in late December. Once that decision is made, she explained, the property owners typically have 30 days to make a decision regarding whether or not the building will be demolished or salvaged.

However, special circumstances have pushed that deadline back.

Mayes and Osenbach would have needed an answer this week if not for an investigation by an insurance company on behalf of Covenant United Methodist Church, located behind the building that caught fire. At least one window and the heating system at the church were affected, according to reports.

Walker said the city has allowed an additional 10 days for the insurance company to wrap up its investigation.

“When the insurance claim is closed, Mr. Mayes is going to have to notify the city of his intentions,” she said.

Mayes said he is still looking into demolition costs in case they decide the best route is to tear it down.

The cause of last December’s fire was listed as undetermined by the state police fire marshal who investigated the scene, Trooper Ken Riggle of the Lamar barracks. Unsure of what started the fire, he believed it began in the back end of the second floor.

Mayes is part or full owner of four buildings in downtown Lock Haven, including the former Wolf Furniture Store building, the former Town Tavern building at 51 Bellefonte Ave. (just across Willards Alley from the former furniture store), the Fitness Unlimited building at 121 E. Main St., and an apartment building at 326 ½ N. Grove St.

The North Grove Street building, comprised of 14 units, caught fire back in May of 2015, displacing its residents. That fire was deemed unsuspicious at the time by the state police fire marshal. The building has since been renovated, according to Mayes, with financial help from Steve Poorman, and is now being leased again.