Downtown Winchester building slated for demolition

Published 1:30 pm Thursday, November 16, 2023

A downtown Winchester building that suffered a severe roof collapse earlier this year is now slated for demolition.

At Tuesday’s Winchester City Commission meeting, the demolition of the building located at 71 South Main Street was unanimously agreed upon.

The building has been condemned since a wall fell through the third-story roof on Feb. 23. One person was sent to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, and several tenants of apartments inside the building were displaced.

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Adam Kidd – project administrator at DAM Holdings and one of the new owners of the building  – first pitched the idea to the commission.

Several points were noted, including the fact that – since the roof of the building collapsed in February – it has shown signs of further damage primarily due to abandonment.

“The third story is now the second story. The second story is working its way into the first story”, Kidd said. “If you guys can imagine, when you stick your hand in a bucket of water for five minutes, your hand prunes up. This building’s gone without a roof for nine months. Imagine what the inside looks like.”

Kidd displayed photos taken from overhead drone footage.

He also presented that, on top of structural integrity issues, he felt it raised public safety concerns.

Mayor JoEllen Reed agreed and opined that it was detrimental to the local economy.

“I’m even more concerned with the public safety issue because I’ve watched the whole [overhead] drone video, and it’s not a pretty sight”, she said. “We have a business that is on the market now due to this being neglected, and that’s not a good thing.”

Utilizing information provided by Yeiser Structural Engineering of Lexington in an engineering report, Kidd asserted that the building met the criteria for demolition by neglect, in which both demolition is necessary and restoration is unreliable.

Ultimately, based on the evidence presented, the commissioners voted unanimously to proceed with the demolition.

“At this time, I will make the motion to allow Adam Kidd to demolish 71 South Main Street due to the fact that it will be demolition by neglect”, Mayor Reed said.

However, as the building has been standing since at least the 1920s, it was not without some disappointment.

Though Commissioner Kitty Strode asked if the building’s facade could be saved, Kidd stated that the current condition of the building made it unreliable.

“If action had been taken quickly and expeditiously, we would be having a totally different conversation right now about what business we were [going to] put in there,” Kidd said.

Commissioner Hannah Toole expressed hope to avoid such future scenarios.

“There’s a very fine line between private property and what a city can do and what we can’t do with vacant properties, but we need to reevaluate a lot of things,” Toole said. “I don’t know what that looks like, but I think this is a turning point. We have to start approaching things a little bit differently with our downtown and our historic district because what we’ve got going on is not happening, and we’re [going to] lose more buildings if we don’t make a change.”

Commissioner Kenny Book emphasized gathering information about the building’s history, which will be undertaken by the Winchester Historic Preservation Commission (WHPC).

Kidd mentioned that hopes for demolition are for the period after Christmas, though before New Year’s Day.

He also expressed hopes for a future restoration project, though nothing is confirmed as of yet.