By Jeanne Sager
LIBERTY February 1, 2002 Changes are coming in Liberty and Village Properties is leading the pack.
Despite a number of critics throughout the village, the company demolished an old fish market building beside Seanachie Pub on Main Street Monday.
The demolition was to make way for a parking lot and an alleyway for the Family Dollar store expected to open in May in the old Woolworths building next door.
John Miller of CTE Construction Services of Lisbon, Ohio, speaking on behalf of Village Properties owner Norman Kerr, said the building had to come down.
They didnt expect to have to buy another building, but Family Dollar mandated that they have parking, Miller explained. And when we got in to take that building down, there were so many carpenter ants and termites, it was sad.
The demolition of the building came under attack from a number of village residents at Mondays village board meeting.
Residents expressed their concerns over whether the village was controlling the demolition of buildings in downtown and what kind of effect it could have on the villages future.
No one is going to want to come visit the alley next to the old Woolworths building, noted resident Jonathan Katz during Mondays meeting.
But Miller said the changes spurred by Kerrs company can only work to Libertys advantage.
Millers company has set up an office on Main Street in Liberty, across the street from the recently razed building.
They are planning a number of projects with Kerr, and expect to see a turnaround in Liberty.
What hes [Kerr] attempting to do here is absolutely wonderful, Miller said.
I heard on the radio someone comparing the demolition of this building to a tooth being pulled from the landscape, he continued. But picture that tooth so rotten and decaying that it would adversely affect all the buildings around it the amount of money needed to restore it would have been outrageous.
Miller also responded to rumors he said he heard about the building having suddenly been torn down overnight.
I went and got my building permit that morning and before 9 a.m., it was down, he noted. We had people watching us work all day.
The buildings former owner, Karen Van Craenenbroeck, who owns the adjacent building, wanted to keep and restore it, but circumstances did not make that possible.
I originally wanted to build a dining area in that building, but I wasnt able to make it happen, she said.
She sold the building to Kerr a few weeks ago, knowing it would be demolished.
It was definitely not a secret around town that if I sold it to Norman it would be torn down, she said.
But Van Craenenbroeck is making the best of things.
Shes going ahead with renovations to the pub, using the open space next to her building to her advantage adding windows along the side to bring a lighter atmosphere to her pub.
And she will still be adding a small dining area in the back to handle the burgeoning lunch business the pub has had over the last few years.
Our Sunday lunch business has just gone off the scales, she said. And even though the building had to come down, maybe the changes will be good.
Maybe there will be a rebirth in Liberty, and we can start attracting people and new businesses, Van Craenenbroeck added. Maybe, in the long run, it will be a good thing.
According to Miller, this is just the beginning of the work Kerr is planning.
The old Woolworths building is currently under renovation, and Family Dollar expects to move in this May.
Kerr will retain ownership of the building so he can control maintenance and any changes to the facade.
Other projects are expected to start over the next few months, though Miller did not elaborate on any in particular.
There are companies that want to come to Liberty, he said. Normans got some wonderful ideas.
And if these people arent careful, theyre going to lose out on turning this community around.
Kerr, who was present at Mondays village board meeting, challenged other residents to get involved.
What I see on Main Street is one person, he said to the crowd in the village hall. Me.
Where are you and where is your money? he asked.
CTE is employing local subcontractors to help complete work on the Village Properties projects.