The town of New Glasgow is struggling with how to get rid of its largest downtown building.

The costly demolition of the 99-year-old Maritime Building will put a heavy load on town coffers. 

At seven storeys tall, the Maritime Building has dominated the New Glasgow skyline since it opened in 1915. A burst pipe five years ago triggered a fire marshal's order to vacate the premises.  

For years, the only tenants have been pigeons.

Earl MacKenzie, the town's engineer, said the birds have added other contamination issues to those already in the building.

"Mould, pigeon droppings, asbestos, metallic-based paints and mercury as well," he said.

MacKenzie said it would take more than $3 million to redevelop the property.

But with the building’s owner in bankruptcy, and the bank refusing to take control, the town is now looking to tear it all down.

A street full of shops in front and a railway behind complicates the demolition plan. One local company estimates the cost of demolition at around $1.1 million — a huge bill for a town of fewer than 10,000 people.

"I'd rather see this into our water system, our sewer system, our streets paving, our sidewalks," said MacKenzie.

With bits of the building falling on the sidewalk below, leaving it empty is not an option.

"Concrete and bricks falling from the building, broken glass, and we're very concerned about having an unoccupied building in our downtown," said MacKenzie.

"I think it's really sad," said Cindy Hemphill, who runs the White Lotus store across the street. "It's an old building, it's a historical building, it's very very sad that it has to come down."

Hemphill hopes the ruckus across the street won't interfere with her business.

"I'm assuming they'll have times where the road will be closed, and that's usually the hardest for us because a lot of people don't want to walk the few extra steps," she said.

If the demolition plan goes ahead, the Maritime Building won't make its 100th birthday. Instead, it will be torn down by Christmas.