Demolition of building at 71 S. Main Street begins in Winchester

Published 4:30 pm Monday, February 19, 2024

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At a recent meeting of the Winchester City Commission in November, the building located at 71 S. Main Street was agreed to be demolished as a result of neglect and other factors that led to safety and additional concerns. 

While the process of doing so may have taken a bit longer than expected, further action occurred last week. 

On Thursday, Feb. 15th, Demolition Magicians – a contractor from Lexington – brought down the main body of the structure. 

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“We were really fortunate to have an outstanding demolition company that took care of it for us.” said Adam Kidd, a project administrator at DAM Holdings and one of the building’s owners. “They got it done quicker than we expected. Physically, nobody got hurt [and] there was no extra damage to any of the surrounding areas. We did as good of a job as could be anticipated.” 

Concerns about the three-story building’s structural integrity largely came to the forefront last February when the collapse of its parapet wall led to one individual suffering minor injuries. 

Following November’s approval, the demolition was originally scheduled to occur in late December, but plans were pushed back as a new contractor was being located. 

In the buildup to Thursday’s event, steps were taken to assuage additional concerns.

“We had, in the weeks leading up to yesterday, an asbestos abatement company come in and remove all the asbestos from the building so that, when we did our work, it would be safe from the neighborhood and [for] all the guys working there,” Kidd added. 

Additionally, during the course of Thursday’s action, the Winchester Police Department provided traffic support and more. 

The decision to recommend taking down the building was made after architects, engineers and others provided assessments stating that the damage was too severe. 

Seeking to provide clarification, Kidd spoke. 

“This [had] very little to do with what we, the owners, wanted to do with the property,” he said. “If those professionals had told us that we could have saved it and that was the way to go, that would have been what we did.” 

Winchester Mayor JoEllen Reed also provided a response. 

“Main Street Winchester is very unique with its High Side. People have invested and are investing in our downtown.” she said. “It was a difficult decision due to the fact that the goal for downtown is to revitalize and/or renovate our existing buildings. But, this building was unsafe and a potential hazard to our community.” 

Kidd expressed gratitude for the mayor’s support. 

Yet – while acknowledging that other buildings were in need of serious maintenance – he too stated hoping this would awaken others to take action in order to avoid such outcomes in the future. 

“Losing an old building is never a good thing. We don’t believe that. We believe this was a necessary sacrifice to protect the surrounding building, but also to protect the economic vitality of downtown,” Kidd said. 

The project will continue with additional steps. 

“Now comes the delicate portion of removing the bricks that touch the adjoining buildings,” Kidd said. “They’ll be working on lifts. They’ll be using their big, heavy equipment. There will be more demolition to be done. It just will be much slower and much smaller. Their plan is to be working on that in the next week while they’re hauling out the debris. Our hope is that in the next days [to] two weeks, realistically, we’ll be completely [finished].” 

Regarding the building’s now former location, certain ideas – including the addition of a greenspace – have been considered. 

While nothing is confirmed yet, the goal is for further improvement. 

“We’re going to use this empty lot space to its full potential,” Kidd said. “This will be the first thing you see when you come into downtown Winchester, and we want it to be unique and to serve the general public.”