The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.
The face of Warrensburg’s downtown has changed significantly since I first came here in 1969. The Martin Hotel was replaced by the Municipal Building. Mattingly’s collapsed and the building’s facade was eventually turned into something modern. More recently, the Baptist Church was replaced by Justice Center, the Estes Hotel burned down and the Innes Mill was dismantled. I won’t even try to track all the name changes on the banks. On the other hand, many buildings have been restored and are producing economic activity where none existed before.
Downtown is facing more changes. The Trails Library is leaving the heart of downtown and moving a few blocks to the old factory occupied by Arwood’s Furniture. It will be interesting to see how that affects commerce in neighboring businesses.
The Jackson’s Appliance fire has torn a large hole in the best-preserved block of downtown. While everyone is thankful that significant damage was limited to the single building, a major business and an attractive building are gone. The question immediately arises as to what will become of the location.
Many towns that have lost downtown buildings have turned them into “pocket parks,” such as the Jim the Wonder Dog Park in Marshall and Blackwater’s Chouteau Garden. Both have plantings and historic information relating to their park’s theme. A pocket park could also be used for various types of arts projects. This is certainly a more attractive option than the parking lot at Holden and Market, but comes in a poor second to replacing the building.
I wouldn’t expect Jim Jackson or his insurers to try to restore the building as it was. However, one would also hate to see a modern façade interrupting the late 19th Century presence on that block. It would be ideal if, no matter what type of building the Jacksons erect, the stones from the building’s façade could be saved and the facade restored.
Whatever the decision, it is important that the City cooperate by eliminating the red tape involved in the rebuilding process. This is the chance for the City Council and the city’s management team to prove that Warrensburg wants small business to succeed in developing a dynamic downtown.
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