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Removal of iconic awning changes New Richmond skyline

An 11-ton section of roof is hoisted from the roof of the former County Market building about noon Monday as renovation continues to transform the retail space to new quarters for St. Croix Health & Human Services personnel and some other smaller departments. 1 / 4
Crane operator Jim LaVenture carefully swung his 120-ton crane counter-clockwise, allowing the 11-ton canopy to clear the building before slowly lowering the steel structure to the parking lot. Employees with Keller Construction and Amery Welding & Fabrication controlled the rotation with ropes from the rooftop and ground.2 / 4
LaVenture's 120-ton capacity crane wasn't stressed by the 22,000-pound structure.3 / 4
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A decade-old New Richmond icon came down Monday as crews from Keller Construction, Amery Welding & Fabrication and LaVenture Crane severed a dozen steel beams and removed the prominent canopy once associated with County Market grocery stores.

Steve Hallman, project supervisor with Hoffman, St. Croix County’s design and construction consultant for the job, said a new, less showy canopy will eventually be placed over the building's main entrance.

Hallman said there was some speculation the heavy-duty roof assembly could be repurposed as a shed or something near the office building but that didn't prove to be practical. The canopy was expected to be cut apart and portions reused or sold for scrap.

The awning turned out to be heavier than expected -- about 11 tons -- but crane operator Jim LaVenture brought equipment capable of lifting up to 120 tons. Winds were very light, and a man on the roof and a second on the ground were able to help guide the structure to a gentle landing in the parking lot, where its disassembly was expected to occur Wednesday.

The removal is part of the remodeling process commissioned by St. Croix County supervisors after they voted last November to purchase the building for $1.28 million, and then spend another $1.8 million convert the space to offices for Health and Human Services Department staff.

The building has been vacant for about seven years. Hoffman said the target date for county occupancy is June 25.

“This is not a short term band-aid approach,” said County Administrator Pat Thompson last August. “I look at this as a long-term solution for space needs for one of the largest departments in the county.”

“It’s a long-term commitment to the New Richmond facility,” he said, “but if the board ever decides to sell the building down the line, we could recoup our costs.”

The purchase became attractive when research determined it would cost more than $4 million to rent and renovate a similar space to serve HHS over a five-year period.

The bid notice for renovation at 1752 Dorset Lane noted that remodeling "of existing 28,000 (square feet) of the 40,000 (square feet) County Market grocery store into office space for St Croix County Health and Human Services.

"Bid sections include: demolition, concrete and site concrete, masonry, structural steel/metals, carpentry, architectural wood casework/countertops, insulation, membrane roofing/metal flashings, gutters and downspouts, metal canopy alternate, fire stopping, joint sealers, doors/frames/hardware, aluminum storefronts/windows, glazing, skylight alternate, gypsum board assemblies, tiling, resilient flooring, carpeting, wall coverings, acoustical ceilings, painting/coatings/wood door finishing, wall corner guards, toilet/bath and laundry accessories, fire protection specialties, closet and utility wood shelving, furnishings, residential casework/countertops, and alarm systems."

A spokesman for Keller said his firm was hired to remove the canopy and do interior and exterior concrete work. Countryside Plumbing & Heating of New Richmond is doing the HVAC work, and J & L Electric & Steel Erectors of Hudson, the electrical work. Red Steel Erectors of Menomonie and Derrick Builders -- general contractor for the former County Market building back in 2003 -- were also doing some of the remodeling work.

Steve Dzubay

Steve Dzubay has been publisher at the River Falls Journal and Hudson Star Observer from 1995-2016. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. He previously worked as a reporter-photographer at small daily newspapers in Minnesota and is past editor of the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal.