Downtown buildings may fall for parking
by Franklin Clark -- fclark@cadizrecord.com
May 20, 2009 | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Roughly 70 people, comprised of elected officials, business owners and other local residents, turned out to have their say on whether to purchase and then tear down two buildings adjacent to the Trigg County Justice Center to make way for parking. The public hearing was held at the Renaissance Center on Monday.

Buying and then demolishing the Alexander Building, currently owned by Virginia Alexander, and the Boggess Building, currently owned by Katherine Costello, might give the judicial center, set to open in July or August, an estimated 25–30 parking spaces, said Vance Mitchell of the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts.

Trigg County Judge-Executive Stan Humphries said the county is going to tear down the old Trigg County Jail, which Mitchell said might result in another 20 parking spots. Humphries said they hope to demolish it soon.

The county also looked at demolishing the building currently used by the Trigg County Senior Citizens Center, which will be moving in the near future, but that building is on the national historical registry, Humphries said.

“We have an opportunity now to eliminate a perceived problem by many, and that is a lack of parking,” said Humphries. “I don’t want to see any other buildings torn down … but there comes a point in time that possibly a building” might have better uses.

The judicial center contingency fund currently has more than $500,000, which is fully bonded and which could be used for more parking, and if that money isn’t spent, it will go toward a down payment on the debt from the justice center project, Humphries said.

Local resident Paul Forshee spoke against tearing down the two buildings, saying that there are always many options. Forshee also said that it is against the original purpose of the Renaissance Program, a city/county joint effort to preserve historic buildings, to make the buildings in question into a parking lot.

“Bonded money is borrowed money,” Forshee said. “Yes, we were approved for X amount of dollars to build the … justice center … but it is, after all, bonded money, and that money will have to be paid back someday.”

The buildings are still in okay shape, and are still paying the city and county property taxes, and tearing them down would remove that property tax income and any chance at those buildings being used for businesses that would bring more tax income, Forshee said adding that literally half of Cadiz has been torn down, either by accident, fire, or by demolition.

Portia Ezell, who owns a bookstore in Cadiz, said one of the things people comment on when in her establishment is how many historic buildings there are in the city, and is against tearing down the two buildings.

“Historic buildings, once they’re gone, they’re gone, we can’t go back and replace those … we can always make more asphalt,” Ezell said. “There are other options.”

Business owner Randy Clark said the proposal to have parking there was logical, especially in light of the fact that the buildings aren’t being used. Ralph Calhoun, another business owner, also spoke in favor of tearing down converting the buildings into a parking lot.

“I hear it a lot, we need more parking downtown,” Calhoun said.

Donna McNichols of the Housing Authority came out in favor of the parking lot. She said she sees vacated buildings in Cadiz, buildings that don’t help the city’s image.

Kevin Stroud, another local resident for more parking, said the wiring in one of the buildings isn’t up to code, and if a fire broke out, two or even three buildings could catch fire, which, he said, would be an eyesore.

Tom Martin of Cadiz Christian Church said he could see both sides of the issue, and that among his congregation there wasn’t a clear consensus on the issue, although many that have spoken to him have said they want the buildings torn down. “I’m glad I don’t have to make this decision,” Martin said.

The Cadiz Christian Church is near the buildings in question.

If the two buildings were demolished and turned into a parking lot, that parking lot would have benches and green space to “soften the effect of the parking area,” according to Humphries, who said there will be no green space in front of the justice center.

Mitchell said that although he was a preservationist at heart, he’s also a realist, and there should be more parking at the justice center. However, in addition to looking at the two buildings in question, the county should look at other options, just to say they’ve “done due diligence,” he added.
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