Although the brick exterior walls are still standing, a fire Monday night caused “complete loss” of a vacant, small apartment building on South Walnut Street, said Statesboro Fire Department Chief Tim Grams.
Asked about this Tuesday morning, he gave the address 228 Walnut, but a city planning official later confirmed that this was the same building identified as 232 South Walnut St. in a zoning map amendment and variance approved in February. At that time, the owner was reportedly planning to tear the building down.
Grams said he once lived in the building, circa 1997, when he first started with the Fire Department. At that time the one-story building contained three or four apartments. But more recently, it was empty, and some of the windows had been boarded up.
“It was unoccupied, there was no power run to it, so obviously we’re still working on determining the cause and origin,” Grams said. “But it was a pretty significant fire, complete loss of the building.”
A neighbor reported the fire around 10:30 p.m. Monday, Grams said. The SFD responded with three fire engines and the tower truck, and the Bulloch County Fire Department also sent an engine. So about 20-25 firefighters were on the scene.
Smoke smelling of pine rosin fogged downtown Statesboro while the Police Department blocked South Main Street, rerouting traffic around a few blocks.
Flames had appeared through the building’s roof, a portion of which eventually caved in.
Grams said he wasn’t sure who owned the building but that it had been “gutted out” prior to the fire, possibly for renovation.
A Bulloch County Board of Assessors tax map shows the parcel as belonging to Beyond JPR Properties. Statesboro City Council on Feb. 4 approved a zoning map change and a variance for 231 South Main St. and, behind it, 232 South Walnut St. for property owner Beyond JPR Properties LLC of Newbury Park, California.
Renovations to the apartment building facing South Main Street have since been completed.
But the plan for the building in back was different. “The applicant seeks to demolish the rear building and construct a total of 12 additional units on the site,” stated the Statesboro city Planning and Development Department’s report.
The building destroyed by the fire was a part of this property, City Planner Justin Williams confirmed Tuesday afternoon. No demolition or building permits had yet been issued for the site.