Cumberland Times-News

February 20, 2013

It’s not a white elephant, but a black hole


Cumberland Times-News

— I read in the Cumberland Times-News on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day no less, that the eyesore known as the Footer Dye Works could be placed on the National Register of Historical Places (“Vote on Footer Dye sends decision to city council,” Page 1A).

Gettysburg is historical. The Flight 93 Memorial at Shanksville, Pa is a historical place. These two sites in our area pass muster as historical places.

The Footer Dye Works fails that test as nothing of historical significance occurred on that site. What was the significant event that occurred here? I rather doubt that there was such an event of earthshaking importance.

No one, either a business or a private individual, will ever set up operations in this monstrosity of a wrecked building.

The cost of cleaning the biological waste; rat, cat, bat, and pigeon droppings, is prohibitive for any new business to consider. Once this historical, or should I say hysterical, property is cleaned and renovated are there tenants would want to set up their enterprises in this building? I don’t think so.

This is a multi-story building; Americans with Disabilities Act requirements ensure that handicapped people have easy access to both businesses and governmental offices.

Stairwells and ramps are great for healthy people, but they are a hindrance to many handicapped people and a dangerous choke point in the event of a fire.

Unless very large and fast elevators are built for this building only the first floor could be used for commercial business. What would the other floors be used for? That sounds like a $64 question.

It is insufficient to say that the Footer Dye Works is a White Elephant. It is an extra value meal-sized black hole of a money pit that will bankrupt our community.

No good can come from its restoration as no rational business owner would invest their capital in this eyesore. It is simply not worth the time and expense of renovation and management.

It strikes me as strange that the only sign that even mentions the Great Allegheny Passage or the C&O Towpath Bike Trails on Interstate 68 is outside of Frostburg at Exit 34. Correct me if I am wrong but aren’t the trailheads for the Great Allegheny Passage and the Towpath located at Canal Place?

These two bike trails are historical sites. The GAP Trail follows the route of the Western Maryland Railroad from Cumberland to Pittsburgh. The Towpath runs along the C&O canal from Washington to Cumberland.

Both trails and Canal Place are tourist attractions that can be marketed for our benefit. This is where we should be putting our time and effort when it comes to developing our tourism industry.

The only legitimate future use for this property does involve commerce or governmental operations; But that use may not be what the MHPT envisioned.

Recently, Perkins Restaurants said they were planning to build a new restaurant at Canal Place. Perkins is a coast to coast restaurant chain. I have eaten at Perkin’s restaurants from Pocatello, Idaho, to Breezewood, Pa., and they are good restaurants.

Unfortunately Perkins had to withdraw their plans due to their own post-recession finances. Another concern for Perkins had to be the Footer Dye Works. This urban cancer, the Footer ruins, surely was part of the equation that gave Perkins the justification to pull out of Canal Place.

I rather doubt that you or I would invest our time and resources in any business enterprise that were buttressed by such an eyesore.

The single best use for this wrecked building would be a parking lot for profitable businesses in Cumberland.

Jeff Robinette

Cumberland