Former Metropolitan Hotel condemned after partial roof collapse

January 30, 2019

New London — If you stood across the street from the long-vacant building at 27 Bank St. sometime since Friday and peered up at the former Metropolitan Hotel, you might have noticed something that shouldn’t be visible through a top-floor window: the sky.

New London Planning Director Felix Reyes, who has been working with the developer of the property for months, told The Day that part of the roof collapsed on Thursday evening.

Reyes said city officials were forecasting that to be the case if structural issues were not addressed, and noted in a letter to Gentry on Monday that several residents contacted him with concerns over the state of the building.

Building owner Brandt Gentry, who lives in Tennessee, said the roof had tarps over it since November or December, and he suspects heavy rainfall last week proved too much for it to bear.

On Tuesday, Building Official Kirk Kripas sent Gentry a notice that the structure is condemned as unsafe, ordering all work on the building to stop immediately.

“A structural assessment by a licensed CT professional engineer must be performed immediately, along with a stabilization plan for this structure,” he wrote in all caps. City officials are expecting a letter from a structural engineer soon.

Reyes said that since “freezing and thawing can be pretty damaging to masonry,” the biggest concern is bricks delaminating off the building. Therefore, the city blocked off the sidewalk in front of it.

Gentry, speaking with The Day by phone Tuesday morning, still sounded upbeat about his plans to convert the building into commercial space on the ground floor and eight 1-bedroom apartments above. Reyes said Gentry has been working with the city and providing evidence of the financing.

Gentry purchased the building from Frank McLaughlin in the fall of 2016 and since has gutted the building. In a January 2017 letter to Kripas, a structural engineer noted “excessive moisture penetration” and “brown rot with subsequent structural deterioration.”

According to a December 2017 report from another structural engineer, issues with the building included debris collected on each floor, deteriorated floor joists, and poor air quality and lighting.

Concerns about the front façade of the building persisted well into 2018.

“I’m deeply concerned about the safety of the existing condition of the roof, and the 3rd, 4th floor, and the continuous water intrusion and debris left on those floors,” engineer Jose-Miguel Albaine wrote to Kripas this past October.

Albaine resigned from the project shortly thereafter but put on record in his resignation the need to secure and stabilize the roof, fourth floor, third floor and wall parapet.

On Jan. 2, Gentry wrote to Kripas saying he asked his general contractor to get going on the cornice, and then he will finish the north wall.

But three weeks later, Kripas said he had seen no progress on the project. Gentry responded Monday that the general contractor pulled the permits to repair the cornice, and that an engineer then will finalize a north parapet wall design.

After the cornice and north wall are completed, Gentry said, a new roof can be put on.

Gentry noted he has invested about 30,000 to 50,000 from now through March to complete the cornice repair and north wall.

“Long-term, though, we have great plans for eight upper-floor apartments — 1-bedroom, 1-bathroom,” Gentry told The Day on Tuesday. He said they will be about 1,000 square feet each, open loft style with high ceilings and water views.

He added in an email that despite the roof damage, the structural repairs made in the past two years — from the upper floors all the way down — have “made the building rock solid, and after many years of it being vacant, it will soon once again be a great, fully occupied, downtown vibrant property.”

He said the building, like many others in the city, is “long overdue for a face lift, and new life.” Gentry said he is negotiating with some local banks and plans to be able to start showing the first-floor commercial space in the summer.

According to city records, the building was constructed in 1875.