A facade in need of restoration

Published 3:00 pm Friday, May 1, 2009

Dear Mr. Mayor and Mr. City Manager:

Please repair the facade of the Kwilecki building.

I know this project has been set aside several times due to budget restraints, and you need the building to expand city hall, but the exterior of the building needs some immediate TLC.

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What was once the proud and historic location of Kwilecki Hardware, then purchased and remodeled several years ago into the Fixture Exchange, now appears as a scar on a prime downtown location.

How can we ask other merchants and building owners to fix up their buildings when you have one that needs serious attention?

I know you spent a great deal of money for a new roof, which was prudent to save the interior of the building. Paul Kwilecki told me the roof needed serious repair when he sold the building in 1976.

You can leave remodeling of the interior of the building until better times and you have the funds, but can’t we remove the rotten wood from the facade and improve its appearance?

How hard is that?

We are able to find money for new ball fields and tennis courts, boat docks, fireworks, movie shows, professional entertainment at the boat basin stage, but we should be able to find some fix-it funds somewhere.

We have some extremely talented city crews who build docks and decks, city parks and other money-saving projects. Can’t they take a few days and clean up the front of this building?

Try the Downtown Development Authority.

They award up to $1,000 in grants to businesses to help fix up their facades.

Paul Kwilecki remembers his grandfather, Isadore, who opened the business on Water Street in 1869. It moved to the present city hall building for several years, then in 1910 moved into its last location on Broad Street next to the current city hall where it flourished for 66 years. Paul Kwilecki sold the business in 1976.

What prompted this observation was a walk in front of the building several days ago when I noticed a marker on the building recognizing it for its historic significance. The marker was from the Decatur County Historical Society, awarded in part due to its restoration by the Fixture Exchange. My immediate reaction was, since it no longer looks restored, maybe we should remove the sign.

As president of the historical society, maybe we should also examine all the buildings that were awarded these historical markers. If the buildings have been allowed to deteriorate, maybe we should recall the signs.

That’s not likely to happen, but it needs to illustrate the need to constantly monitor our historic buildings so that they don’t fall so far in disrepair, that they must be demolished, and forever lost.

As one who had a business downtown for several years, I had always thought that once the restoration of the Bon Air was complete, it would be the catalyst for other landlords and business owners to follow the leader. It has occurred in many instances, but there still remains many buildings that also need some TLC. The DDA grants have been a great help, and many merchants have taken the funds and restored their facades.

Downtown Bainbridge has come a long way since the first time I walked around the square in 1987. There were few businesses, and lots of “for rent” signs. Almost every building needed help.

It’s come a long way since. Let’s keep it going.