The Times West Virginian

October 4, 2012

Demolition major step being taken to bring brighter future to Fairmont

Times West Virginian

— In the present, visitors to Downtown Fairmont see a major demolition project.

In the near future, though, construction will be under way on the 400 block of Adams Street. If all goes according to plan, in less than two years that block will be revitalized with the completion of a new state office building.

We understand that the demolition brings mixed emotions to longtime residents of Fairmont and Marion County.

One of the buildings coming down housed the Fairmont Theater. Since 1946, the theater, built by Warner Brothers Theatres Inc., served as a place of entertainment for residents. In addition to showing movies, the theater also played host to several country music artists including Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, George Jones and Dolly Parton. The theater, though, closed in 2007, and the building, like many others on the block, became dilapidated.

We can appreciate history, but it’s now time to look forward.

The ongoing demolition, which is scheduled to be completed next month, puts Fairmont on that path.

“What it symbolizes now is change,” county administrator Kris Cinalli said.

Fairmont City Manager Jay Rogers said that simply getting rid of the blighted buildings is an improvement.

“For many years it did pose an eyesore,” he said. “It’s like the homeowner who wants to put a new coat of paint on the house; it just looks better. But, it obviously got to the point where a coat of paint wasn’t going to cut it.”

The need for a new state building surfaced in February of 2009, when the state Department of Administration made the decision to close the old West Virginia State Office Complex on the 100 block of Adams Street due to structural issues. Marion County acquired the east side of the 400 block of Adams Street, and Fairmont’s Reclaim Inc. won the bid to tear the buildings down.

The new state building, designed by Omni Associates, a Fairmont architecture firm, will encompass 80,000 square feet, spread over four floors, said Diane Holley Brown, spokeswoman for the state Department of Administration.

Among the agencies scheduled to move into this building include the Department of Health and Human Resources, WorkForce West Virginia, the state Tax Department, the state Insurance Commission, Rehabilitative Services and the Secretary of State’s office.

Rogers said that modernizing the new building will mean better accessibility. With the parking infrastructure directly across the street and easy road access from the Gateway Connector, the new building will be able to serve the community well.

Construction of the new state building is dependent on weather, but the goal is for it to be open by April 2014.

City and county officials are optimistic that a new state building and its associated workforce will provide an economic lift to Fairmont.

“The jobs coming back downtown will provide a big boost to the downtown businesses,” Cinalli said. “That’s what we’re hoping for — more traffic, more people coming downtown for business, and for more businesses to pop up in order to serve those people.”

That’s why we consider the demolition taking place now as a symbol of a better Fairmont in the not-too-distant future.