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OUR VIEW: Extra property might be needed for city hall site

Workers spent Wednesday demolishing buildings in the 100 block of West First Avenue, clearing the way for what could be the future location of City Hall.

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Traffic was diverted away from most of the work, but it was hard for us to pass by without envisioning what the location will look like a few years from now if City Hall truly is built there.

Getting to this point came with its share of difficulty. The site includes the former Longhorn Bar, which the city bought for $1 and which was the focus of a troubled and expensive demolition effort that compromised the Veterans of Foreign Wars post next door. The city not only had to pay for the original demolition, but also ended up buying the VFW for $175,000 with a plan to raze it.

Other structures on the block that the city purchased and this week demolished were buildings that housed Brenda’s Sew and So and Mimi’s Attic.

Really, all that’s left on the block is the building that houses the American Legion post.

We say buy that, too.

Think about it: If the city does move forward with its plans to relocate City Hall, it could be a beautiful addition to downtown Mitchell. In recent years, the corner of First and Main formerly included dilapidated, crumbling buildings; in the future, it may be the site of a structure with modern architecture and aesthetically pleasing green spaces. It’ll be the gateway to downtown.

But as a local businessman recently suggested to us, it won’t be complete unless the city controls the entire area — the half block stretching from Rowley to Main along First.

We have no problem with the American Legion organization itself, but suddenly the group’s building is in a prime location that could be utilized by the city for the next 100 years. Recent history of that location indicates it’s unlikely the Legion building will last nearly that long.

The city should adequately pay the Legion to move elsewhere and move into a building that will last for generations. That could be good for the Legion, which is unlikely to ever get a better offer for its building than one from the city. It would certainly be good for the city hall site, which could resemble the beautiful Davison County courthouse block, but with more parking (imagine, by the way, what an old, stray building would look like on the courthouse lawn).

We don’t necessarily like it when private properties come off the tax rolls, and we know the city already has spent a significant sum on downtown land purchases.

But this is a unique moment in time. City leaders should think long-term and capitalize fully on this opportunity.