The city of Greenwood is looking to buy, demolish and redevelop a building that was damaged during the 2021 grain elevator fire.
Greenwood officials came before the city’s redevelopment commission (RDC) on June 14 to request a $300,000 grant that would be given to the city’s community development corporation to negotiate and later finalize the purchase and demolition of the red commercial building located at 200 E. Main St.
The building is owned by the owners of Sports Plus, and it was significantly damaged during the April 27, 2021 fire that razed the former Farm Bureau Co-op grain elevator, which had a history that dated back to the 1800s. The long-abandoned grain elevator went up in flames quickly and spread to the commercial building next door, which, at the time, housed Sports Plus and an art studio.
By the time the fire was put out, both buildings had sustained significant damage.
The cause of the fire could not be determined, said Chad Tatman, spokesperson for the Greenwood Fire Department.
At the time of the fire, the elevator has been abandoned for decades and was in poor shape.
In the late 1990s, city officials went to “considerable lengths” to try and tear down the building and turn the lot into a park, according to a 2002 editorial published in the Daily Journal. These efforts did not work out.
In 2002, then-Greenwood mayor Charles Henderson wanted to tear it down and build a new three-story, $19 million city hall in its place. He faced backlash from the community, and residents rallied to petition the city council to not approve bonds for the project, according to the editorial. Greenwood did get a new city hall about 10 years later when it bought the Presnell office building and converted it into the current City Center on Madison Avenue.
There were other plans for the restoration of the grain elevator over the years, including transforming it into a park with a climbing wall in 2005. A few years later, in 2009, the city applied for a grant to restore the building when it was deemed a “safety hazard” due to shards of rusted metal that were falling off the unkempt building, according to an article published in the Daily Journal at the time.
Most recently, city officials had hoped to salvage and incorporate what had remained of the grain elevator into a new development. The fire put an end to that idea, said Kevin Steinmetz, the city’s capital projects manager.
After the fire, the building owner, Scott Beasely, had contemplated what to do with the building as it would need to not only be repaired but also brought up to modern standards, which can cost a lot of money, Steinmetz said. After the fire, Sports Plus moved several blocks west, to 475 W. Main St., where the business currently operates today.
During the RDC meeting on June 14, city officials said Beasely had reached out to Greenwood officials about the city possibly purchasing the property. That started the process to request funds for the city to do so in the form of a $300,000 grant. Beasely declined to comment further on the pending matter.
Officials say the city is a natural buyer for the property due to challenges because it is a good location for future businesses. The property is also located next to a railroad track that has picked up in rail traffic over the last several years. The amount of damage to the building would make it harder to develop without intervention from the city, Steinmetz said.
“It made sense for us to come in and kind of be the buyer of last resort for that,” he said.
Eventually city officials hope to offer up the whole block of Main Street from McKinley Street to Washington Street for redevelopment in the near future, Steinmetz said.
Over the last several years, the city was worked to demolish other poor-condition buildings on this block. Previously this block had substandard commercial buildings that were later turned into apartments, along with a transmission repair shop. Many of the structures were later purchased by the RDC and demolished, he said.
With the possible purchase of the 200 E. Main St. property, and the former grain elevator property, the city could add approximately another third of an acre to an area that could be redeveloped. This could give the now-vacant block a bigger platform for redevelopment, Steinmetz said.
“When you include Washington (Street) and the alley there, you’re talking about an area that is, give or take, 1.4 acres right there that could have commercial or mixed-use development in Old Town,” he said.
The grant still needs to be approved by the RDC. The grant is expected to be on the agenda as a resolution during the commission’s next meeting on July 12.
If the RDC passes the resolution, the grant would be forwarded to the Greenwood Community Development Corporation (GCDC), which would also meet to approve the grant in July. If the GCDC also approves it, the city would have the funds in hand to pursue the sale and then the demolition of the property in August, Steinmetz said.
City officials would then publish a request for proposals for the Sports Plus property plus the block from McKinley to Washington Street. This process was also used to redevelop the former middle school property into The Madison mixed-use development, he said.