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October 23, 2012

Canal Place seeks delegation’s help

Board needs state cash for Footer Dye Works

CUMBERLAND — Canal Place leaders looking for cash to help stabilize and repair the Footer Dye Works building turned to local legislators for help and guidance at an informal meeting Tuesday.

Legislators emphasized the need for a clear plan for the building and preferably a commitment from a developer in order to make a case for state funding.

The hope is to get the building into better condition so that a potential developer would be willing to step in with private money to fully restore the building and lease space, officials said.

Andy Vick and Dee Dee Ritchie met with Sen. George Edwards and Delegates Kevin Kelly, LeRoy Myers Jr. and Wendell Beitzel. Ritchie is the executive director of the Canal Place Preservation and Development Authority and Vick is chairman of the authority’s board of directors.

Myers asked for estimates on the repair and stabilization work.

“The bottom line is, we’ve been told we cannot tear it down,” said Ritchie, citing state historical preservation officials.

The cost of stabilizing the building, just to a basic level, could run as high as $2 million, Ritchie said.

Board members, though, are in favor of preserving the building. That would take care of the structural part of the roof and 146 windows, among other things, at about $1,500 per window.

“The building is salvageable,” Vick said in response to a question from Myers.

The four floors of the building total 31,000 square feet Myers said, or about 8,000 square feet per floor.

Vick said it was important to do some work right away in order to protect the building from further deterioration.

“So, for $2 million, you have a restored shell,” Myers said.

To get support from other General Assembly members for funding, Myers said, the authority needs to show “that we have a plan, not just a dream.”

Kelly was concerned that seeking funds for Canal Place might hurt priority number one — money for a new Allegany High School.

“We’re a small delegation, you don’t want to go down there burning favors for a project without a written commitment,” Kelly said.

“It’s a high school versus an empty building,” Kelly said. The new high school has to be the delegation’s priority, he said.

Edwards said the two issues weren’t connected and he was not concerned that one would affect the other.

Legislators said $1.5 million had been allocated for an entryway to Canal Place and that perhaps the governor should be asked to re-allocate that money for the Footer Dye Works building, especially considering the state was requiring the building be saved.

The legislators asked Ritchie to draft a letter to the governor for their review, explaining the situation and the restoration plan.

Kelly emphasized the need to have a potential developer on board and willing to make some kind of commitment to the project.

The building also poses other problems.

“We can’t secure it enough it keep it safe,” Ritchie said.

Ritchie said not only have pigeons infested the building, but vagrants have been hanging out in the building and leaving their cigarette butts.

“All we are trying to do is move this project forward,” said Vick. “We are not trying to waste money.”

The restored building could help the authority’s budget and bring positive results for downtown businesses, Vick said.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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