The building that housed Georgetown’s first bank is safe for at least another month; however, it may take a push from private organizations to keep the structure off the chopping block.
The Georgetown Town Council voted 3-2 Tuesday to table a vote on whether the building, located at 9110 Ind. 64, in the heart of town, should be demolished. In September of 1909, the two-story structure opened as Georgetown’s first bank.
It most recently served as Georgetown Town Hall, but the building was closed in 2008 and town officials have called for it to be razed due to its condition.
But Greg Sekula, southern regional director of the Historic Landmarks Foundation, urged council members on Tuesday to either salvage the structure, or allow someone else to do it.
“This building holds a great deal of esteem in the community,” Sekula said. “If you lose this building, I think you’re diminishing the quality of the community.”
John Beams, director of the Georgetown Main Street organization, said he collected a petition with more than 100 signatures of residents who support saving the building.
Sekula and Beams said the structure could have several new purposes, and could fit into the town’s plan to revitalize Ind. 64 and boost economic development downtown.
“We think it has the potential of a new life, and we want to be involved with that,” Beams said.
As the building sits in a historic preservation district and is on the National Register of Historic Places, Sekula said the property would qualify for restoration grants.
He suggested the town sell or lease the property to a private developer, or donate it to a nonprofit who would refurbish the structure.
Georgetown could also sell or lease the property for a nominal fee and require the new owner restore the structure.
Sekula said he toured the building last week with two members of the council, as well as local commercial Realtor Mike Kopp and developer Steve Resch.
Kopp and Resch have been involved in numerous property restorations and transactions involving historic structures in New Albany, and Sekula said both believe there’s potential for the old town hall building.
But at what price, some council members questioned.
Sekula estimated some masonry work to repair the bricks on the exterior of the building would cost about $1,500, but it will likely be much more costly to redevelop the building for a commercial or office use.
If Georgetown had the money available to repair the structure, it would be worth the effort, Councilman Mike Mills said.
“But we don’t have those funds,” said Mills, who along with Council President Jerry Brock voted against tabling the vote to demolish the building.
Mills said the town should raze the structure and “grass and seed” the lot. He added a new building like a gazebo should be built on the cleared property.
Brock and Councilman Jim Tripure also voiced reservations about spending tax dollars on the building.
“The town just does not have the funds to do it,” Brock said.
Councilwoman Patti Denison said she’s undecided on the issue. She would like to see the building saved, but added she would prefer Georgetown retain ownership of the property.
Councilwoman Kathy Haller firmly backed Sekula’s proposal.
“I’m just absolutely against demolishing it,” she said.
Brock appointed Haller and himself to a committee that will meet with Sekula over the next month to review options for saving the building.
The issue will be discussed, and a vote possibly taken on whether or not to demolish the building during the council’s next regular meeting on March 18.
Brock said a special meeting could be called if needed, as council members said they don’t want the matter delayed for very long.
The town has received some bids for demolishing the building that range from about $16,000 to $21,000, but those bids could expire after 30 days.