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Whoever cut the grass missed a spot next to the old Bailey-Robinson-Royal Furniture building on Second Avenue Southeast.
Daily photo by John Godbey
Whoever cut the grass missed a spot next to the old Bailey-Robinson-Royal Furniture building on Second Avenue Southeast.

A city dumping ground
Blight in historic Decatur building visible from sidewalk

By Chris Paschenko 340-2442

Although Decatur cites property owners for blight, the city has turned a historic building downtown into a junk-filled warehouse with a hodgepodge of items viewable from the sidewalk.

Walking south from City Hall, visitors to the Albany Historic District happen upon the two-story Bailey-Robinson-Royal Furniture building on Second Avenue Northeast.

Standing across from the city's Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts, the building has 13 storefront windows and padlocked double doors, which let passersby see what the city has discarded over the years.

Stacks of computers and monitors, phones, vinyl blinds, bricks, boards, blocks, lighting fixtures, paper, pipes, push mowers, rugs, office furniture, books, refrigerators, lamps, exercise equipment and stuffed animals collect dust on a debris-covered floor.

And that's only what's visible from the front.

Graffiti blights the building from the alley. Boarded and broken windows reveal stacks of filing boxes and steel jail commodes.

Weeds grow from the sidewalk next to 24-inch grass and overgrown planters. Peeling paint, rotting wood and a broken storm gutter diminish the circa 1915 landmark.

Decatur Mayor Don Kyle, who was unavailable for comment Tuesday, has said the city is looking to lure Calhoun Community College's arts program downtown, possibly on this property. A civic center was once planned near the area.

Councilman David Bolding, who represents the district, said the city, which has owned the building for more than a decade, could turn over the building to the Downtown Redevelopment Authority, to attract a future tenant.

"I know it doesn't look good now," Bolding said. "But a year from now I hope it's a different picture ... When I ran for office, I wanted to do something about the building and it's taken a lot of time, but it's fixing to bloom. I'm excited about it. A strong downtown tells a lot about your city."

Ray Wilkinson, maintenance supervisor for the city, said he makes sure the heat stays on in the winter so the sprinkler system doesn't freeze. He said the city has sold some of the stored items on government auction.

Jeff Fussell, the city's purchasing agent, said the city hasn't sold anything in two years.

"Ultimately, the department directors initiate the process to sell any materials stored that are surplus," Fussell said. "We're trying to address the old computer monitors. There's a pile of them, and we're currently looking at a company to provide disposal ... It's not just something you take to a landfill and dump."

Do the stored items have value?

"It's safe to say a good bit of it would have limited demand," Fussell said. "At one time — and I'm not saying it's a beauty to behold now — but at one time stuff was piled up close to the front of the windows. It was pretty unsightly, but it's much improved."

Melinda Dunn, a Decatur historian and coordinator of the Old State Bank, said the building is part of the national register district, which makes it eligible for tax incentives should someone want to restore it.

"We used the building as a case study for architects, structural engineers and code officials," Dunn said. "It has tremendous potential."

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