Astoria Armory OK'd for window repairs

By: Edward Stratton - Jan 16, 2020
Source: The Astorian

The Astoria Historic Landmarks Commission again approved a window restoration at the Astoria Armory, which recently received an infusion of money as volunteers seek to fix the building up.

The Friends of the Astoria Armory, the nonprofit overseeing the community center, plans to replace the large arched windows atop the high lamella roof, along with numerous rusted first-floor windows.

A small army of volunteers with the Friends, whose only employee has been Robyn Koustik, the community director, has been slowly refurbishing the venue, which once hosted major bands and events with thousands of attendees.

They have developed a steady stream of events, such as semiweekly skate nights, amateur wrestling, birthday parties and other private rentals. The Armory also hosts a free Thanksgiving dinner and other community benefits.

Regional lender Craft3 recently provided the Friends a $550,000 loan, $338,000 of it to purchase the building and the rest for building improvements.

The Armory was approved for the improvements in 2016, when the loan from Craft3 was scheduled to go through. But the Friends have encountered issues with asbestos, underground fuel tanks and lead abatement from a former military firing range in the basement. A storm in 2017 ripped off a portion of the building’s roof and led to flooding indoors.

“We’ve had everything but locusts,” joked Mike Davies, the nonprofit’s president.

The priorities are replacing the building’s rusting steel and rotting wood windows and improving bathrooms, he said. The Friends plan to use aluminum frames.

Along with the windows, the Friends hoped for approval to replace the front entrance to the building on Exchange Street with a glass and aluminum door. The group also wants to replace a second-story door, awning and staircase on Duane Street.

But commissioners on Tuesday wanted more detail on the replacements besides the windows. They voted to continue the hearing on those changes, giving the Friends time to create more detailed plans.

Davies was OK with the continuance, since all the Friends can currently afford are the bathroom remodels and window replacements.

Paul Davis, a board member with the nonprofit, said the Armory isn’t a sexy project like the Liberty Theatre, but is deserving of support as the group tries to save the building from water intrusion.

“We serve a large segment of the community with things that they are not getting in other places in our community,” he said.

Commissioners want the Friends to search for historical photos of the front entrance to replace it with similar materials. City Planner Barbara Fryer said she included the condition because the door might be the only source of ornamentation on the 1942 building.