Demolition began this week on the former AT&T building in Santa Rosa, the first step in a long-awaited effort to redevelop the vacant downtown eyesore into a glass-clad office building.
About 14 workers from Richmond-based demolition firm C. Hammond Construction began gutting the interior of the windowless, fortress-like structure, long considered a blight on the downtown.
“Because we build things, we're excited to be building something,” developer Hugh Futrell said.
The $16 million project, dubbed Museum on the Square, is a downsized version of the 10-story mixed-use tower originally proposed for the site.
But the plan promises to reinvigorate the long-lifeless southwest corner of Old Courthouse Square, with up to 255 workers and thousands of visitors to the wine museum and restaurant planned for the ground floor.
It's the latest and most high-profile of several development projects updating the look of downtown Santa Rosa. These include Luther Burbank Savings' new branch on the site of the former Traverso's deli; Humboldt Apartments, a five-story 51-unit building at Humboldt and Seventh streets also built by Futrell; and the Sonoma County Museum's expansion into the former Conklin Bros. flooring company building, at Seventh and B streets, which is becoming an art gallery.
On Wednesday crews dismantled metal racks holding obsolete telephone switching gear and extracted miles of wires running throughout the five-story building.
Workers at times looked as if they were battling sea serpents or mythical hydras as they wrestled huge tangles of telephone cables through the dimly lit building.
“It's very time-consuming work,” said Fred Kurestian, who is managing the project for Futrell.
The renovated 90,000-square-foot building will be the new downtown home of Luther Burbank Savings and TLCD Architecture, which designed it. A wine museum and restaurant are also planned for the first floor.