Past, future must remain balanced

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 14, 2008

Every community must walk a fine line between preserving the connection to its past and building a strong foundation for the future.

The City of Ironton has a unique opportunity to do both by moving forward on two parallel projects that would ultimately restore the Ro-Na Theatre and demolish the old Memorial Hall.

City leaders have put a great deal of time and effort into analyzing both these situations that are uniquely different from each other, something we hope the public realizes.

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While it is easy for preservationists to say that all old buildings should be restored, the reality is that the dollars and “sense” involved doesn’t always add up.

The Ro-Na has fallen in disrepair over the years after serving as an auto parts store and a variety of other businesses. Still, the marquee structure and some of the internal features could be rehabilitated.

Most importantly, this building could serve a much-needed purpose in the community by serving as a cultural arts center or movie theater.

At one time, the Ro-Na was considered a shining jewel for the entire region and it could become so again.

Memorial Hall, on the other hand, has fallen into such a state of disrepair that it may be beyond saving and doesn’t have a clear use at this time.

With estimates upwards of $8 million to renovate the former jail and town hall, it makes more sense to work out any ownership uncertainty and demolish the structure. The city could then either look at creating a park or another commercial property that could be developed.

The building itself was once severely damaged by fire so the bulk of it is not as historic as many people believe. Memorial Hall has sat vacant for years with no one interested in renovating it, so to think that this will change now is simply wishful thinking.

Ironton and Lawrence County have a storied history and a proud heritage but that should never overshadow the importance of the future.