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Editorial: Former city halls in line for second lives

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Two pieces of local history are up for sale, and officials hope the buyers will preserve the historic character.

We do, too.

In both Greenwood and Franklin, longtime city hall buildings where people visited officials, including the mayor, and conducted other business, now sit empty. Franklin’s former city hall at 55 W. Madison St. has been vacant since the city’s offices moved to a renovated building on Monroe Street in 2009. In April, Greenwood government left its home of nearly 30 years on North Madison Avenue for new, consolidated digs in a former bank tower on South Madison.

Both buildings are more than 80 years old and need extensive renovations inside while keeping the historic exteriors intact, officials said.

Greenwood chose not to renovate the old Polk building because of an expected $2.8 million price tag for rehabbing it. It served as city hall from the 1980s until this spring. The board of works owns the building, which is 28,000 square feet and needs repairs to its foundation as well as a complete renovation for a closed-off wing the city didn’t use.

The city sent out letters requesting proposals from about 25 businesses that officials thought would be interested in repurposing the building, which was built in 1920 to serve as a community center.

Ideally, Greenwood will sell the building to a business that best suits officials’ visions for revitalizing downtown. City officials will have to decide what Greenwood can afford, based on any help with renovations or other incentives buyers might request, officials have said.

Franklin is closer to a deal, with an agreement finalized with Old Post Brewpub, a business that wants to convert the old city hall into a restaurant and brewery. The building originally was the city’s post office. The city took the building over after a new post office was built in 1980. It has sat empty since city offices moved out about five years ago, and the city redevelopment commission has been trying to sell it since 2011.

Both buildings have architectural character and are worthy of restoration. Their uniqueness adds a degree of charm to the downtown areas.

We encourage both cities to pursue talks with developers who appreciate the buildings’ special qualities and sincerely hope they can be maintained.

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