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Members of the public are invited to share their opinions Tuesday, May 24, on whether the old Beckley Newspapers building should be demolished or preserved. Anyone interested in sharing opinions may do so at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at council chambers at City Hall, 409 S. Kanawha St. in Beckley. Written comments may be mailed to Angela King, grants administrator for the City of Beckley, at 409 S. Kanawha St., Beckley, WV 25801.
Although Mayor Bill O’Brien has expressed his belief that the building should come down, he emphasizes that no decisions have been made. Demolition will take place using Community Development Block Grants made possible through HUD (federally-allocated) funds. These grants can also be used for rehabilitation and preservation projects, but their aim is to benefit low- to moderate-income people.
The West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office has said although the property is not archaeologically significant, it may be architecturally significant because it was constructed in the 1950s. It is within the boundaries of the Beckley Courthouse Square Historic District
It may be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, and demolition would be considered an “adverse effect” to a district already considered “endangered” by the Preservation Alliance in 2015. Delisting would prevent downtown property owners from applying for certain preservation grants and state and federal historic tax credits.
Because the city plans to use HUD Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to demolish the building, a public meeting must be held by law. Walter Hagland with Urban Design Ventures will be present at the meeting to answer questions.
When The Register-Herald reached out to Hagland in March, he said rehabilitation of the building would not be economically feasible. However, he could not provide specific figures for rehabilitation or demolition.
Jim Chambers, a downtown property owner, said he wants to see those numbers.
“Why would the city want to spend money on someone else’s building?” Chambers questions. “As a property owner, you’re responsible for your own building.”
He said property owners should be held responsible for their buildings, and that grant funds should not be used to tear down this property.
Chambers also questions the plans for the property if the building is demolished — Will it remain an empty lot or will something be built in its place?
Anyone interested in sharing opinions may do so at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at council chambers at City Hall, 409 S. Kanawha St. in Beckley. Written comments may be mailed to Angela King, grants administrator for the City of Beckley, at 409 S. Kanawha St., Beckley, WV 25801.