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Renovating historic Fort Walton Beach building may be costly

After the relocation of the historic Gulfview Hotel to a vacant city lot, extensive work still needs to be completed before it will be usable. The oldest building in Fort Walton Beach was moved a half mile in April with great fanfare. This historic structure will be converted into the city's welcoming center with office and meeting spaces.

But before the conversion is complete, a great deal of work needs to be completed on the building. In addition to the roofing issues, repairs must be made to the plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems. To bring the building up to code, a sprinkler system will be added and wheelchair ramps will be built to meet Americans with Disability Act requirements.

Though the building was donated to the city, the estimated costs of renovations may total over $400,000. Costs could be even higher depending on what further inspections reveal. The City Council has authorized the power to enter into a contract for the repairs and improvements.

It is important to note that the construction contract was not done through open bidding as most public projects are contracted. Rather, city leaders instead used an 'RFQ" or request for qualification solicitation from contractors. Experience in historical building preservation was cited as the reason for bypassing the open bid process. With a distinctive 112-year-old building that has been a city landmark for more than a century, retaining the building's original integrity was considered a priority.

During a building construction or renovation project, the developers must comply with various municipal, state and federal laws. These laws vary from local building codes to state environmental laws to federal laws concerning access for disabled individuals. Because of the volume and complexity of these laws and the penalties for noncompliance, an experienced attorney in this area can be as important as an experienced builder.

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