WHEELING - Building owner Darryl Baynes said it will likely cost about $300,000 to demolish the former Clay School in East Wheeling - and abandon his plan to turn the colossal structure into a science and recreation center for local youth.
Baynes said the figure is less than he expected, but more than he can afford.
"I don't have $300,000," he said, noting Wheeling Economic and Community Development Director Nancy Prager quoted him the dollar amount.
Photo by Ian Hicks
Building owner Darryl Baynes had a fence put up around the southeast corner of the former Clay School in East Wheeling as a safety precaution.
Mayor Andy McKenzie has said he wants Baynes, who has owned the old school building on 15th Street for about a decade, to make a decision about the structure's future within the next 6 months. Baynes hasn't given up hope he will be able to find a way to complete the project for which he bought the building.
However, safety concerns pointed out during a recent city inspection of the old school prompted Baynes to have a fence installed around the structure's southeast corner to keep people off the sidewalk and cars off the street in case part of its parapet gives way. Adding to those concerns is the anticipation that children will soon be playing just across the street at the J.B. Chambers Recreational Park, expected to open next year.
Contractors said part of the building's parapet is bowed outward several inches and a couple heavy limestone blocks at the top of the structure are in danger of falling. Baynes and a city inspector also were present for the walk-through.
The contractors told Baynes that putting a new roof on the building could cost $500,000 or more, and just stabilizing the parapet and shifting masonry could run into six figures.
Baynes said he has reached out to West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's office, as well as every member of West Virginia's congressional delegation, in an attempt to get emergency funds to stabilize the building. And he said grant writer Jerry Wilhelm is working to find money to complete the rehabilitation.
"We're still doing our best to get funding. ... If it doesn't work out, it won't be because we didn't try," said Baynes.
A former resident of Philadelphia, Baynes bought the 83,000-square-foot Clay School building for $65,000. He said he's spent about $150,000 since to maintain it, including replacing all of the windows.
The school was built during the 1940s, operating until it closed in the 1990s.