Big Brown Takedown begins

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Chip Gulley is in charge of the "Big Brown Takedown."
That's what the removal of the aluminum store fronts in downtown Niles has been aptly named.
But like so many others who have tried to assess the conditions behind downtown Niles' aluminum store fronts, he doesn't really know what to expect.
But the Mark I Restoration foreman and bricklayer is excited about the work ahead of him and his three co-workers this summer
The company started preparations to remove downtown Niles' aluminum store-front facades early Monday morning by putting up scaffolding in front of the three first buildings in line for renovation on Main Street.
The company, based in Howell, was awarded the $450,000 construction contract for Niles' downtown revitalization project at a city council meeting Monday, June 9.
Gulley brings 21 years of experience to this restoration job.
He has travelled across the country restoring and renovating old and new buildings, but has also worked on new construction projects.
The scaffolding will serve as the construction workers' platform during the facade removal.
It will also help to increase the safety of people moving on foot or in vehicles past where the renovations are taking place.
Gulley expects to have seven floors of scaffolding up in front of the three buildings on Main Street by the end of today.
Although Gulley doesn't know what will appear once the aluminum facades come down, he hopes what they find is nice and ornate.
He thinks the stone work will be the most challenging part of restoring downtown's store fronts, such as sealing cracks and making the bricks water tight for future exposure to the elements.
Gulley said the aluminum facades will be cut into pieces, then lowered onto the scaffolding and further reduced in size before a fork lift will load them into a waiting truck.
Having worked in several of the country's biggest cities on both large and small construction cites, Gulley is looking forward to working in a small town.
Gulley said he prefers restoring old buildings compared to building new ones.
He said as a brick layer, for him it's nicer to work on a small restoration project compared to working at a big construction site.
Gulley, however, is unable to set a date for when the restoration work will be completed.
According to the construction contract, work should be completed within 16 weeks, or four months and will be terminated once the city has spent the $450,000 set aside for the downtown revitalization project.
Juan Ganum, community development director, however, said the city will derive some funds from the sale of the aluminum which could allow more restoration. Ganum said the store fronts are high grade aluminum and "They grab a pretty penny on the scrap market," he said.
Ganum estimates the city could sell aluminum for somewhere between $30,000 and $50,000.
That could make renovations of one or two extra buildings possible, he said.

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