Armory Presents Pricey Challenge

N.C. Firm Offers Revitalization Services

WINNSBORO – What to do with the Old Armory? It has, for many years, been steadily slipping into a state of advanced decay, and Tuesday night Town Council learned that all of their options carry a hefty price tag.

John Dunham, with the Greenville architectural firm DP3, presented Council with their options, following a study of the building.

“It has some great bones to it,” Dunham said. “It’s a great building. It does, obviously, need a lot of work, ranging anywhere from code issues to aesthetics to its functionality. It’s obviously suffered from deferred maintenance.”

The Town’s first option, Dunham said, was to renovate the building as it is now, at a total cost of $1,329,922.28. That includes $216,972.50 just to bring the building up to code, and nearly $92,000 to replace the roof.

The second option, to demolish the building and replace it with a prefabricated metal structure, would cost the Town $1,258,975. Third, the Town could demolish the building and replace it with a brick structure, at a cost of $2,145,250.

Council took no action on Dunham’s report. Council also took no action on a proposal by Jess Kryzenske, Community Development Manager for HandMade in America, an Asheville, N.C., firm vying to help kick start the revitalization of downtown Winnsboro at a cost of $9,500 to the Town.

Kryzenske said her group has helped lead grassroots efforts in nearly a dozen small towns in Western North Carolina over the last 20 years and said she believes they can do the same for Winnsboro. By bringing community leaders together and utilizing the work of volunteers, she said, new life could be breathed into downtown. Kryzenske said her group works primarily through what she called “placemaking,” something she later defined as identifying specific things unique to the community – history and historic homes, in Winnsboro’s case – and helping the community highlight and market those features.

Outgoing Councilman Bill Haslett made HandMade a cornerstone of his recent failed bid for mayor, telling an audience at a candidate’s forum in March that, if elected, he would bring HandMade – and jobs – to Winnsboro.

“Towns are moving forward through volunteerism,” Haslett said Tuesday night. “It’s not up to the Town or the County to do these things.”

Councilman Clyde Sanders said he was concerned with keeping a group of volunteers together, focused and dedicated to a revitalization project.

“The success of this is not based on the Council, it’s based on citizen participation and business owners,” Sanders said. “My only question is what kind of participation are you going to have? Nine thousand dollars is not a lot of money to some people, but it is a lot of money to the Town of Winnsboro. I question the participation and the dedication of the people in the town. I think, just judging from past experience, you’d have a lot of people come out to the first meeting to see what’s going on, then it dwindles and then it stops.”

Mayor Roger Gaddy said it was vital to find out what the community wants before launching a long-term project. Kryzenske said one thing her group helped towns do was to constantly recruit new people to the process, in order to compensate for those who drop off, while maintaining a dedicated core of volunteers. Councilman Danny Miller requested that the Town speak with other towns on HandMade’s resume to get a feel for what kind of success they have experienced.

Kryzenske said she spent two days surveying Winnsboro two weeks ago, and suggested that, if Council doesn’t opt to go with HandMade’s proposal, they should seek out some outside firm to help bring the community together and focus local energies on a common goal.