Demolish Old Building Quickly

It appears the old Kirk’s Art Supplies building in downtown Wheeling has deteriorated to the point it is beyond saving. Most of the first floor has collapsed into the basement. The second floor may not be far behind, according to Mayor Glenn Elliott.

The sooner the structure can be demolished, the better. Once that has occurred, the lot under the building should be deeded over to the state — if there is no more productive use for it.

Located at 1508 Market Street, the building is separated from West Virginia Independence Hall by one lot, already owned by the state. It has been landscaped and an attractive wrought-iron fence now separates it from the sidewalk along Market Street.

City officials already have set aside $40,000 to tear down the Kirk’s building, which was deeded over to the city by its former owners. They lacked the financial resources to repair the structure or even have it razed.

Once the old store is leveled, the city will be left with a vacant lot on what once was a busy commercial street. Times have changed, however, and it is unlikely anyone has a plan for productive use of the property.

That cannot be taken for granted, of course. City officials should make efforts to determine whether any developers are interested in the lot.

If not, simply giving the land to the state, for use as part of the West Virginia Independence Hall complex, would be an excellent idea.

Elliott said he hopes the state Division of Culture and History, which operates Independence Hall, can take over the Kirk’s lot. He expressed concern the state’s fiscal problems could delay such a transaction, however.

That should not be a problem. Except for a few thousand dollars to take care of the formal transfer, the deal should cost the state little or nothing.

The near future might be a good time to grant ownership of the lot to the state, in fact. If Division of Culture and History officials have plans for the land, taking ownership before the Legislature holds its annual meeting early next year might help persuade lawmakers to appropriate a few dollars to improve the property.

Whatever the disposition of the lot, city officials should expedite action on the matter. The sooner a seriously dilapidated building can be removed, the better.