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Memorial Hall ideas discussed

The fate of Memorial Hall is still up in the air.

At a forum on Monday, city officials and members of the public met to discuss the future of Memorial Hall.

The event, which was called by Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship, was set up so the public could have some input on what to do with the building at 4th and Railroad streets.

There were about 15 residents, five councilmen and

the mayor.

Memorial Hall was built in 1892 to be used as a hall for veterans or other public use and has been used as a library and for years was the city municipal building. The city moved out of the building in 1998. It was condemned by the city last year and the building has peeling lead paint, mold, floors that are sagging and a roof that no longer connects to the walls at some points.

The forum led to several ideas, including one from the public to turn it into a park with a city Christmas tree and benches and tables. There was also one from architects Walker and Associates to turn it into a park with a stage and there was another by a citizen who wants to turn it into a bed and breakfast and an office.

Ironton resident Kevin Mahaney presented a plan that he and others citizens had worked on. Their suggestions included planting a large evergreen tree that would be the city Christmas tree, taking out the inside of the building and preserving three walls and making that a wall to honor veterans and putting in shelters for picnics.

“The tree could become the start of the Christmas parade,” he said. “The park could become a focal point for the farmers’ market the city is going to build.”

Robert Beasley from Walker and Associates brought a plan that would also gut the building and preserve the walls. The walls would be stabilized with steel pieces.

The inside would be turned into a stage area and an open air gathering area for memorial services, reunions and concerts. It would also include a fenced in children’s play area.

In the Soldier’s tower, a collage of photos of area veterans would be put up and there would also be plaques and statues honoring those who served in the military.

Beasley said the project could be in phases over a period of 10 years.

“It could become a gathering place for the Memorial Day Parade,” he said.

He said the initial cost of doing selective demolition and securing the building would be $240,000.

Doug Cade, an engineer with E.L. Robinson, said he went through the building and that it would be extremely expensive to renovate the building to bring it up to current building codes. Estimates range between $3 million and $4 million depending on what is done to the building.

Jan Riley said she would like the city to turn the building over to her so that she could renovate it into a 5-bedroom bed and breakfast, a ballroom that could be used for conferences and an office space.

“I think it is a beautiful building,” she said.

She said she had worked on historic buildings in Cincinnati and Memorial Hall is “so much better than most.”

She said that the building’s floors are in as bad a shape as they look and that she would use historic architects to help plan the renovation.

“I’d like to save it,” she said, adding that she could get it renovated in five years.

The city councilmen present said they were for saving the building, but that the city does not have the finances to do it.

“I hear great plans, but what it comes down to is money,” said Leo Johnson. “Ironton doesn’t have $3 million-$4 million to do it.”

He said the council’s focus needs to be on infrastructure problems like sewers and roads.

“The hall is not an infrastructure problem,” he said.

Councilman Charles O’Leary said he has talked to the state about getting grants for the renovating the building and said he was told that there are no “brick and mortar” grants available.

Councilman Kevin Waldo said he had concerns about turning the building over to private concerns because they may get the project partially done and then stop.

Waldo suggested having another forum in 30 days to see what progress has been made.