Beckley Officials Must Make Quick Decision On Fate Of Collapsing Building

Despite the best intentions of those who want to restore the dilapidated building at 227 Prince Street in uptown Beckley, its days may be numbered.

During the Tuesday, Sept. 28, meeting of the Beckley Common Council, Mayor Rob Rappold read aloud an email he sent to councilmembers regarding the condition of the former Prince Medical Lab building. He encouraged them to quickly make a final decision regarding its fate.

“This building continues to deteriorate further and winter may spell its doom,” Rappold read. He said that the building has been in noticeable decline, especially in recent days.

On Sunday, Sept. 26, bulging bricks on the building collapsed into the alley. The fall could have been fatal to a person passing by, or could have caused serious damage to a vehicle, Rappold said. Thankfully, neither of those scenarios occurred.

Additionally, an attorney who has an office in the building adjacent to 227 Prince Street informed the mayor that his staff had been hearing “creaking and the sound of crumbing material from the building.” According to Rappold, the attorney stated that although he places value in buildings of historical significance, he is concerned about the Prince Street building and advocated for its demolition.

Councilmember Kevin Price added that he and an architect engineer walked by the building prior to Tuesday’s council meeting and noticed that the front of the building has “moved probably a good inch from where it was just a few weeks ago.” He continued that this type of movement occurred at the side wall just before it collapsed.

“So, whatever we do, we don’t need to wait. That was his opinion as well,” Price said of the engineer. “This is something that could be very disastrous to somebody just walking by. It’s coming down, and it needs to come down in a more controlled manner than gravity itself doing the work for us.”

Rappold responded that he agreed with Price, who had alerted him and council about the Sunday morning collapse.

Councilmember Sherrie Hunter noted the building should be “taken down as quickly as possible.”

Rappold and council will hold a special workshop meeting regarding the building on Monday, Oct. 4, at 5:05 p.m. Discussion will center around the city’s next steps and whether they should sell the property to an independent investor, or have the building demolished.

At a prior meeting in March, council tabled a discussion to have the building torn down after receiving a $62,000 bid from Princeton based Empire Salvage and Recycling for demolition. The concern was that the building might be deemed a historical landmark.

Rappold said during that meeting that prior estimates to renovate the building would be in excess of $1 million, which wouldn’t be a good financial move for the city.

Before the October special workshop meeting takes place, Councilmember Robert Dunlap stated that he would let the independent investor, who is currently interested in purchasing the property, know that she needs to have a final offer on the table.

Earlier in the meeting, Rappold explained that this investor offered to pay less than $10,000 for the property, but the city purchased the property for $111,000.

“The numbers don’t add up, in my opinion . . . that is going to be a valuable piece of property,” Rappold said. He stated that if an independent investor cannot be found, it might be in Beckley’s best interest for the city to retain the property.

The workshop meeting will be broadcast live via WebEx. A link will be available on the city’s website and through the City of Beckley Facebook page.

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