Architect talks about possible building uses

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 29, 2008

In the second community meeting about what to do with the old Memorial Hall covered the same ground as before, just with a few more details.

Archtiect Shawn Walker

present Monday to answer questions about the plans he came up with for the site.

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He said his starting point was what could be done with the facility with what was there. The plans he came up with would do selective demolition on parts of the building and then putting up a steel structure to support the walls. The roof and floors would be taken out, the basement filled in to make the ground level. What would be left would be a open air facility for multiple uses.

“I came from the position of preserving the structure,” he told the audience of about 20 people. “We will have to do some demolition on the building no matter what.”

He said there isn’t much salvage value to what is left in the building.

He said that while demolition would cost around $250,000 his plan would cost around $400,000 to put in steel supports and footing. He said the estimates are loose figures because nothing has been designed yet making it difficult to nail down a price.

The steel structure would also be load bearing meaning that in the future, floors could be put in if the city wanted to turn it into some type of building for something like an art center.

“This can save the past and prepare for the future in many different ways,” Walker said.

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 reports have the building having peeling lead paint, mold, and floors that are sagging and a roof that no longer connects to the walls at some points.

City Councilman Kevin Waldo read parts of the original deed from 1889 and an ordinance where the city accepted the building and designated what it would be used for.

It read in part that the building would be built for the use of Union soldiers, their widows and orphans and would have a library and be a place for “relics of a patriotic nature.”

The building was built for $20,000 and was entrusted to the Dick Lambert post and if the veterans organization ceased to exist, the building would be turned over to the city of Ironton.

Part of the deed said that “intoxicating liquors” cannot be sold on the property and another building can’t be built there. It also made specific references that it wasn’t to be used for offices or storage.

While many in the crowd wondered why the city couldn’t just restore the building to its former glory, councilmen were straightforward on that subject— the city doesn’t have the money for it. Estimates for saving the structure as building range from $1.5 million to $7 million.

Mayor Rich Blankenship said that he has talked to the Ohio Historic Site Preservation department and “they couldn’t say that money was available” preserving Memorial Hall.

Councilman Leo Johnson said that the building has sat vacant for 10 years and no one wanted to do anything with the building until this council brought the subject of doing something with it.

“The time is now to act,” he said. “Not in a year, not in two. I want to save the building but we have to be realistic about it.”