Old YMCA building in limbo

Published 8:58 pm Friday, July 8, 2011

Most of the old YMCA building in downtown Selma will remain standing if plans approved by the Selma Historical Preservation Commission move forward.

At a Thursday meeting the Commission unanimously approved a motion for the city of Selma to move forward on negotiations to stabilize the façade.

The city and the building’s owner, Tom Bolton, have been discussing the future of the building since February.

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Bolton requested the building be torn down or a property trade with the city be discussed. However, for now, Selma Mayor George Evans said neither seems to be a viable option. When the city approached Bolton about restoring the façade, Evans said he was not receptive to the plan.

“He basically said he was not interested in doing that because it would cost him $500,000 and he was not going to put $500,000 into tearing down and stabilizing it,” he said. “He was more interested in the city taking it over and trading it off. That’s not an option right now either. It’s not something we would entertain at this point.”

Bolton maintains the best plan for everyone involved would be to completely tear the building down. Saving the façade, he said, is an expensive venture and he is afraid falling bricks will eventually injure someone. Two different engineers, Bolton said, have supported his plan to demolish the building.

“I had an engineer look at the building in December 2009 and he wrote in his report that the building was gone. It is unsafe and presents a public hazard,” he said. “In a nutshell (an engineer hired by the city) said the building was not safe and that if money was not an issue it could be restored.”

Swift Drug Company owner Buddy Swift, whose business is located next door to the old YMCA, said he is concerned about how the deteriorated structure will impact his store.

“That wall is right next door to me,” he said. “The mortar on those bricks is like powder. Even if they left the façade that wall would still be there.”

Swift said he would rather approach the building from a safety standpoint than historical.

Selma City Attorney Jimmy Nunn said a letter was sent to Bolton on behalf of the city Feb. 9 to let him know there had been complaints from occupants around the building. On March 9, Bolton’s attorney appealed the position stating they had concerns about stabilizing the building as it relates to cost.

Bolton agreed the building presents a danger to the public and it should be demolished.

Nunn said Bolton requested a tradeoff with the city that would exchange the old YMCA Building for the McKenzie Building. However, Evans said the trade was not an option because of the cost to the city to stabilize the YMCA building.

Historic Development Commission president Scott Patterson said he and the board hoped the city and Bolton could meet in the middle by demolishing most of the building and preserving the façade.

“That’s where we have been all along,” he said. “We’d love to have it restored, but if we can save the façade, that would be great.”

But saving the façade, Bolton said, simply isn’t affordable. Tearing the building down, Bolton said, will cost him $50,000, which he said he is willing to pay.

Even if they attempted to save the façade, Bolton said the work could block Broad Street.

He added if storms and high winds moved through Dallas County while the work was being performed, it would present an entirely new hazard to workers.

“Our own engineer said if you are working on the building and a strong wind comes along, you need to get away from it,” he said. “It’s that dangerous.”