Buildings demolition now just a matter of when

NEW CUMBERLAND – The demolition of the Call buildings in downtown New Cumberland is now a matter of “when” not “if.” The buildings' status has been in limbo for about a year and a half, ever since city officials inspected and condemned them in 2014. Property owner Corben Call III was unwilling to have the buildings demolished because of the cost involved and because he was using them for storage. Call, the son of former Call's Variety Store proprietor Corben B. Call Jr., who died in 2011, finally put the buildings up for auction in August. The winning bidder was the Business Development Corporation (BDC) of the Northern Panhandle, the economic development authority for Hancock and Brooke counties. BDC Executive Director Patrick Ford said the buildings will be demolished to create space for a parking lot, a park or something else. “It would have an immediate impact on the appearance of that corridor,” Ford said. The buildings were brought to the BDC's attention by New Cumberland Mayor Linda McNeil, and it is the city, as a BDC member, that will take the lead on the project, Ford said. “We're not moving forward with that property until we know what the city's plans are. We're here to help the city,” he said. “We'll do everything we can to help them realize their vision for that property.” McNeil said her preference is to have the space developed into a parking lot, a park or a combination thereof. “I think it has so much potential. I just think it could be made into something really nice,” she said. New Cumberland is in the midst of an effort to identify and remediate dilapidated commercial and residential properties in the city – either by demolishing them or by renovating them. The removal or rehabilitation of “bad” buildings also is a priority for the BDC, Ford said, because such structures often are an impediment to economic development. Economic development officials often use the acronym BAD to describe “brownfields, abandoned and dilapidated” buildings. Ford said removing the Call buildings – located adjacent to each other at 102 and 104 N. Chester St. – will advance the cause of economic development by creating “curb appeal” at the intersection of Chester and Madison streets, adding parking spaces and making the historic 1st National Bank/Graham Building more attractive. “That block right there needs a lot of help. Right now, it's tired looking. If we could do something with that property, we could add a lot of value in New Cumberland and create a lot of interest in Hancock County,” Ford said. The BDC currently is soliciting demolition estimates and checking into the presence of asbestos on the property. At an estimated cost of $10,000 per building, the demolition will have to wait until there is a closing and the BDC receives a clean title, Ford said. Complicating the planned demolition is the fact that the buildings are connected to the 1st National Bank/Graham Building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1903, the building most recently was home to Staley's Hardware & Rentals and currently is up for sale. “That's a good-looking building. It's right in the heart of the city, but it's got no parking,” Ford said. “By tearing those (Call) buildings down and eliminating the blight, it creates a lot more interest and makes that corner property more attractive.”–when-.html