Demolition begins in downtown Blackville
Blackville Town Councilman Steve Jowers sat on a bench along the town’s Main Street, watching in satisfaction as Liz Ann Bonnett operated a trackhoe to tear down a building.
Bonnett works for Owens Construction, the company tasked with demolishing several dilapidated buildings owned by the town.
“I am glad to see this,” said Jowers, occasionally snapping a picture with his Canon. “It has been way past due.”
The structures are over 100 years old and have been abandoned for years. Different businesses have occupied the five adjacent offices in the structure whose clean white front belied the deterioration behind it.
“They are unsafe and hazardous to health, environment and the future of this town,” said Jowers. He said there have been vagrants and some drug activity in the buildings. That’s going away.
Outside of grading the 1.6 acres of property and planting grass, there is not much Blackville’s Town Council can do with it due to an odd partnership of ownership. The town owned the buildings but the property is owned by Norfolk Southern Railroad. “We are trying to negotiate with them to sell it,” said Jowers.
“This is the first of many I hope to see torn down,” said Jowers.
The next building slated for demolition is a former theater on Solomon Blatt Avenue behind Subway. Its gray walls surround trees which have grown inside the building and vines cascade out the windows.
In recent years Blackville’s mayor and town council have been adamant about using whatever legal means possible to get abandoned properties either cleaned up and improved or condemned and demolished.
They have appealed to property owners first but when that didn’t help, code enforcement has been used.
“We have got to improve the looks of the town,” said Jowers. Cleaning up the properties also enhances safety for residents and visitors, he said.
It also makes the town more marketable for economic development – which means jobs and revenue for the town.
Last week’s demolition is part of that process, said Jowers. “It’s been a long time coming.”