Danville facing decision over condemned Main Street building

Owner says restoration plans are in the works, she will ‘fight’ any demolition effort

Danville City Commission may soon decide what it wants to do about a condemned building in the heart of downtown, but the owner says there are “big things in the works” and she still hopes to bring the structure back to life.

“It’s some very exciting things for Danville,” Ann Yager McCrosky said of her plans for 311 W. Main St., a building that Danville condemned in 2012. “I just can’t jump the gun yet until we have some things in concrete … In the next couple weeks, we will have some more information.”

The Architectural Heritage Board, which oversees the historic downtown district the building is located in, voted Wednesday to “put the responsibility for that building and where it goes in the lap of the city instead of the lap of the Architectural Heritage Board,” according to a motion by AHB member John W.D. Bowling.

311 W. Main has been vacant since a lawyer who lived there, James Clay, died, according to Code Enforcement Officer Tom Broach.

“He passed away and I condemned the building because it was in bad shape,” Broach said. “Structurally, it was unfit for human occupancy and it needed to be condemned. It’s been condemned ever since.”

According to a condemnation sign posted on the building, the building was condemned on June 13, 2012.

PVA records show the building was transferred from Clay to Clay’s estate on June 27, 2012. Walter Hulett paid $75,000 for it on April 12, 2013, before selling it to McCrosky for $87,500 on July 20, 2013.

The building has been a continual topic of discussion among AHB members for years, according to officials who attended Wednesday’s meeting. Code Enforcement Director Bridgette Lester said complaints about the deteriorating building have been brought to AHB members multiple times. Complaints have included that glass from upper-story windows has fallen onto the sidewalk below.

But the fact that the building is condemned puts it outside the reach of the AHB’s authority, Bowling said.

“I hear at least once a week from people on the street — ‘what are you going to do about that building?’” Bowling said. “… We’ve batted this around here amongst us for four years and I don’t know where the breakdown is and I’m not shrugging the responsibility of this committee, but I think the city needs to move forward on that.”

City Manager Ron Scott said he believes Bowling’s interpretation of the situation is correct.

“Once a building is condemned by the city, it’s beyond the scope of your committee’s authority and it’s incumbent upon the city then to follow through on enforcement,” Scott said.

Broach said the next step in the condemnation process would be to “go to the county attorney’s office, file criminal charges for failure to comply with a demolition notice and take them before district court.”

Scott said the city commission would need to approve that action before it takes place. The commission could consider what to do about the Main Street building, which is located next to Carol’s Bridal Boutique between Third and Fourth streets, at its next meeting on Monday, or the meeting after that on May 8, Scott said later Wednesday.

However, there are some plans in the works for the building that could change things, he noted.

McCrosky’s perspective

McCrosky said she was unable to attend the AHB meeting Wednesday because she is nine months pregnant and preparing to have her baby today, April 20.

She said she considers the condemnation of the building “kind of illegal.” 

“They never notified me of it, they just slapped it on the building,” she said.

McCrosky said she bought the building with dreams of saving it and using it to help improve downtown Danville. But she didn’t know at first what she was getting into.

“Wanting to restore a building and being young, having never done it before, I learned a lot,” she said. “… We’ve been actively working on the building, it’s just been little bits here and there.”

McCrosky said big plans are in the works but she still needs to “put all the dominoes in place, so to speak,” before she can provide any details publicly. She still plans to fix up the building and will “fight” the city if it decides it wants it torn down.

“The structure, especially the front of the building, is crazy strong. When you walk through, it’s absolutely remarkable how well-built that building is,” she said. “It stood there for 20 years with no work done on it. I’ve owned it for the last three years. We’ve been working on it … I should have had a better plan and that’s where my inexperience comes into play. … I kind of bit off more than I could chew, but I have the experience now.”

McCrosky said she wants to turn the restoration of the building into “a learning experience” that shows people “this is how we save more buildings.”

SO YOU KNOW

The Danville City Commission could discuss what to do about the 311 W. Main St. property at its next regular meeting, 5:30 p.m. Monday, or at the meeting after that, 5:30 p.m. May 8.