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Silver begins work to stabilize his quake-damaged buildings

Brian Silver’s quake-damaged downtown buildings are being stabilized this week.

That’s good news for the vendors around Silver, whose businesses have been anything but stable since the August earthquake.

“I’m in a construction zone, literally chain-linked in. No one can see me,” said Rick Molinari, who owns Molinari Caffe on Brown Street. “I’m not a happy man right now. But I’m dealing with it.”

Molinari’s coffee shop is surrounded by Silver’s three buildings on Brown, opposite the Historic Courthouse, and Michael DeSimoni’s Alexandria Square. That block of Brown has been shut down since the earthquake, severely hampering business.

Silver’s construction crews are in the process of tearing down a small building that once served as City Council chambers and stabilizing the adjacent Silver buildings that house a law center. After that is complete, Molinari said city officials promised to open Brown to one-way traffic.

That could increase business, Molinari said, although there will be no street parking.

Silver told the Register it could be years until the construction on his law center is finished. An architect is working on plans that include a five-story building, he said. Nothing has been submitted to the city, according to officials.

“Right now they are stabilizing the building including the front façade while they decide on the future of the building,” said Dan Kavarian, the city’s building inspection supervisor.

Navigating the city’s commissions could take six months, with weather being another factor, Silver said.

“I would like to have it as soon as possible,” Silver said. “But it will likely be two years” (until his construction project is done).

Silver came under fire for failing to retrofit his buildings by the 2009 deadline established by the city, which approved its earthquake ordinance in 2006.

Michael L. Holcomb, who owns the Molinari Caffe building, has criticized Silver and the city for not forcing the renovations earlier. Other businesses complied with the regulations.

“The rules are apparently different for Brian Silver,” he said Tuesday.

Holcomb retrofitted his buildings, which escaped major damage in the earthquake, but that didn’t help his tenants. Several Holcomb buildings were briefly red-tagged, prohibiting entry, because city officials feared Silver’s buildings could collapse on them. Holcomb’s properties reopened after roof strengthening.

“I happened to be in the middle of this mess with the brand new, retrofitted building,” Molinari said.

Molinari said he moved his shop to Brown last spring after several years on Main Street, and his business immediately doubled.

It’s still a prime location, he said, but his business won’t flourish again until Silver is done with repairs.

Officials ordered the shop’s gas be kept off until Silver’s demolition is finished, Molinari said, but he’s been surviving. But he’s counting the days until his street returns to normal.

“It’ll go by fast, I think,” he said.

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