“That was my office, right there, in that corner, for years,” Kevin McCarthy said just as the maws of backhoe crunched, tore, yanked and shredded the southwest corner of the largest of the oldest, and arguably ugliest, buildings in Palm Coast Monday morning: the demolition had begun of what had once been ITT Community Development’s headquarters, and later, after an ill-advised deal in 2001 that never paid off, an office and classroom building for the Flagler County School Board. (See the video below.)
There won’t be controlled explosions. But for the next four to six weeks, Environmental Site Services of Bunnell’s crews will be systematically demolishing the 54,000 square foot structure, grinding from the west end of the building to the east and back again as they tear out what ESS’ vice president, Mike Morea, expects will be some deeply buried concrete foundations. You’ll see a constant stream of ESS trucks in and out of the demolition site on Corporate Way between the two sides of Palm Coast Parkway, not far from Heroes Park. Every scrap of metal, every clump of concrete, will be hauled back to the ESS yard in Bunnell, re-sorted and recycled.
The Flagler County School Board, ending a year-long grind of its own as it debated what to do with the useless structure, awarded Environmental Site Services the $165,000 demolition contract in February. The board had considered refurbishing the building after it was condemned for classroom use. That proved too expensive. It put it up on the market—for $2.3 million, well below the $3.5 million price, in unadjusted dollars, it had paid for 15 years earlier (or $4.6 million in current dollars). No one bit. (The final $395,445 payment on the building’s mortgage was due this spring.) It thought of mothballing the thing. But the building has been costing $70,000 a year to maintain and has attracted marauders, making it a big liability. So the board decided to level it, spread sod and mow the place until a buyer materializes sometime in the future, or the board decides to use the property for something else.
So it wasn’t just like that that the building began to vanish, but, just like that all the same, yet another block of Palm Coast history—what there is of it—was disappearing. It was built during the Carter Administration. It won’t be make it to Flagler County’s centennial next year.
“In America we try to embrace any kind of history we have, which isn’t much compared to Europe, South America or Asia,” McCarthy said. “So the little bit of history we have, for Palm Coast, this was historic, but all of our ancient relics if you will are gone. The old welcome center at the Palm Harbor golf course, there’s a little tower there, that was where St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton used to meet before they built their church. That’s been torn down. The original Publix has been repurposed. And then this. So three ITT monuments are gone.”
Another landmark in the young city returns to dust.
McCarthy worked in the building for four years until 2005, back when he didn’t have the power to hire and fire. He is currently the direct of adult and community education. He had relatives who’d worked in the building when it was ITT. “I remember when the building went up, and before this was here there was a trailer in the back part of the property, literally just a trailer, didn’t have bathrooms. They used to go to Charlie T’s Truck Stop to go to the bathroom and get lunch or whatever. But I remember thinking, why would they put a building here, on a dirt road, in the middle of the woods.”
The Adults With Disabilities program’s 50 clients are actually still on the property even as the demolition proceeds, because the program’s portable buildings are far enough from the demolition site. By July 1 they will have moved closer to community education’s main offices, off State Road 100, in the complex that used to be the old school board offices. The move is awaiting the vacating of a big warehouse there used for now by the plant services department. Those operations are relocating to Education Way, off of U.S. 1. “As soon as they can move, we’re going to move in,” McCarthy said. The program currently serves 50 clients. It will double in size by July 1 as state funding that had been cut last year is restored.
By then the old Corporate One location will have been razed. Facilities Director Charles Nies, who was at the site this morning, said the demolition contractor will level the slightly hilly grounds into relatively flat, grassy lot. Most of the trees, with the exception of a few palms, will be preserved.
“We don’t know what we’re going to hit when we get to the ground,” Morea said of the demolition, “we could have 24-inch footage, we could have 12-inch footage,” he said, referring to the building’s concrete foundations. “When you do these demo jobs, you don’t know. We don’t know if they poured secondary floors.” A crew of four was working there this morning. More would come later. It was a matter of time before the “baby” backhoe would give way to his 90,000-pound demolition machine, once the building is denuded of its walls and windows, leaving the metal frame to be dismembered.
“It’s not just demolishing,” Morea said. “You’re separating aluminum, you’re separating copper, you’re separating metal. We separate all the wood. We’re a recycling company.”