COLUMBIA — The Historic Preservation Commission voted Tuesday to prevent the Heibel-March Building from being torn down.
The commission's decision to accept an offer by Legacy Construction to renovate the building was the latest development in a debate that has involved multiple parties over the last 15 years, when the city bought the land on which the building sits.
The discussion will now move to the City Council.
Mike Martin, a local blogger and former member of the Historic Preservation Commission, owns property in the same neighborhood as the building at Range Line Street and Wilkes Boulevard. He has personally been involved with the fate of the property for the past eight years.
Martin said at the Historic Preservation Commission meeting Tuesday that tearing down the building would be a bad idea, “but something’s got to happen to it.”
It can’t continue to stand in disrepair, said Martin, who has put money from his own pocket into the building’s restoration. He hopes to see someone else — someone who can afford it — take over the project.
Legacy Construction's proposal includes a bid to purchase the building, renovate it and perhaps make additions to it, including an overhead garage door and modern storefront windows, and use it for business.
Pat Fowler, who lives in the same neighborhood as the Heibel-March Building, said at the meeting, “I’m quite fond of the building.”
She also said that she supports Legacy’s proposal and thinks that a successful business in the area would be a good role model for children living nearby.
Martin said he thinks that the people who want to see the building demolished don’t live in the area.
Sitting next to City Planning and Development Director Tim Teddy, Martin offered “all due respect” to Teddy before saying that the city has been "a terrible steward to that building."
The commission’s motion to accept Legacy’s offer was unanimously approved, but Vice Chairman Brent Gardner said that he thinks the city needs to put a limit on the length of time Legacy would be in control of the property.
Gardner said he thinks the council should discuss the issue because, if Legacy were to acquire the building while the city still owns the land, it could lead to potentially sticky dealings down the road.
The commission will next contact the City Council and the Parks and Recreation Department with its conclusions from the meeting. The commission’s next meeting will be held in January.