The City of Clarksburg, like some property owners, has a real fixer-upper it would like to get rid of. The prospects, however, aren't all that good.
The city's Municipal Building Commission agreed on Monday to sell the old city hall on West Pike Street at an auction. Commission members have set a minimum bid of $100,000. Even if someone was willing to pay that much, he might have to shell out 10 times that amount in order to bring the building up to code -- it's loaded with asbestos, and it's not handicapped-accessible.
In addition, the century-old building is not particularly attractive and there is no parking. In short, this property will be a hard sell.
In the meantime, the city is still paying for the building's utilities (estimated at $10,000 a year) and insurance.
No matter what happens, the old structure is going to cost money -- lots of money. It's probably going to be more money than a developer is willing to spend. So it may be incumbent upon the city to possibly seek grants or federal loans to fix up the building so that it (a) can continue to be used by the city or (b) so that it can be more attractive to a buyer.
The problem faced by the City of Clarksburg is not unique. Many towns, big and small, are facing the question of what to do with old buildings that are no longer considered useful.
It's going to take some creative thinking on the part of city officials as to what the best approach might be in disposing of the old municipal building. Perhaps with some facade improvements and the necessary renovation it can continue to be an integral part of the city's downtown.
It might be a good idea for the building commission to confer with other cities about how they have dealt with this problem. A number of towns have revitalized their downtowns successfully. Maybe we can borrow some ideas here and ideas there and save a historic landmark, and continue the process of revitalizing downtown.
Today's editorial reflects the opinion of the Exponent editorial board, which is comprised of James G. Logue, Kevin S. Courtney, Patrick M. Martin, Matt Harvey and J. Cecil Jarvis.