GREENSBORO, N.C. — As council members make moves to take over an old building downtown, some business owners worry it’s not worth the trouble.
The Cascade Saloon on Elm Street downtown at 408 South Elm Street was built in 1896.
The building sits between two train tracks.
“The people who own the building haven’t made any investments in several years. Now it’s at the point where it’s deteriorating,” explained Benjamin Briggs with Preservation Greensboro.
That’s why, after many months of discussion, the city council voted last night 7-2 to begin the process of eminent domain. The goal is to take over the building, invest $700,000 to stabilize it and prevent it from falling apart, then sell the building to a new business owner to renovate and use.
It’s too little, too late say some current business owners. Jim Reintjes leases and runs an art gallery right next to the old Saloon.
“When will it be done? Are we looking at the end of 2014 that they’ve got this building stabilized? That’s a year or two years. That it’s gonna sit there and nothing’s gonna be done,” he insisted.
“We have better things to do in this city with $700,000,” he added.
While Reintjes supports preservation, he doesn’t agree with putting any new money into the old saloon. “I’m fighting to maintain a business here and we’re all on this side of the tracks trying to rebrand this area to get people down here.”
He says knocking down the building would open up Elm Street, unifying North and South of the train tracks.
“In the evenings, it looks like death valley,” he said, referring to South Elm.
Briggs agreed to a degree. “We want downtown to be a place that has continuous development from Center City Park and beyond,” he said.
Briggs says making it possible for a new business to take over the building is a perfect start.
“This is just a book on the bookshelf,” he said.