Knoxville group works to prevent another disaster like the McClu

Knoxville group works to prevent another disaster like the McClung Warehouses fire

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The McClung Warehouses were once viewed as potentially prime residential property, but after two fires and a decades-long battle between the city and its owner, the historic buildings were brought down for good. The McClung Warehouses were once viewed as potentially prime residential property, but after two fires and a decades-long battle between the city and its owner, the historic buildings were brought down for good.
"I think if action would have been taken a decade ago on these buildings as it should have been, that we would not be standing in a pile of rubble right now," said Knox Heritage Executive Director Kim Trent. "I think if action would have been taken a decade ago on these buildings as it should have been, that we would not be standing in a pile of rubble right now," said Knox Heritage Executive Director Kim Trent.
"South High School. It's attached to the Sarah Simpson Technology Center," said Trent. "Multiple millions of dollars are in play on that site and the owner is irresponsible and not doing anything with the property." "South High School. It's attached to the Sarah Simpson Technology Center," said Trent. "Multiple millions of dollars are in play on that site and the owner is irresponsible and not doing anything with the property."
Rule High School on the north side faces a different challenge: an interested owner with no interested developers. Rule High School on the north side faces a different challenge: an interested owner with no interested developers.
By DREW GARDNER
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The McClung Warehouses were once viewed as potentially prime residential property, but after two fires and a decades-long battle between the city and its owner, the historic buildings were brought down for good.

"I think the main lesson here was you can't wait," said Knox Heritage Executive Director Kim Trent. "You need to step in and either work with owners to fix buildings or get them into new hands, because you don't have time."

Extended Coverage: Fire again devastates McClung Warehouses


The McClung Warehouses had long been at the top of the group's Fragile Fifteen list.

"I think if action would have been taken a decade ago on these buildings as it should have been, that we would not be standing in a pile of rubble right now," said Trent.

"We moved as quickly as we could as soon as it got out of bankruptcy court to purchase the buildings," said Deputy to the Mayor Bill Lyons.

Since the fire, Trent's eyes have turned to other fragile properties.

"South High School. It's attached to the Sarah Simpson Technology Center," said Trent. "Multiple millions of dollars are in play on that site and the owner is irresponsible and not doing anything with the property."

Lyons says they are working to avoid similar fates at sites like South.

"This is a property rights society," said Lyons. "I think we all recognize that. I think we number one want to show property owners it's in their interest, if they own a historic building, to find ways to get it back developed and back in use."

Not all property owners are willing to play ball, and the city can only step in when the owner's rights endanger other property owners' rights. It's called Demolition by Neglect and it's currently being enforced at South.

"The city is going to step in, stabilize it and that is billed to the property owner," said Lyons.

Rule High School on the north side faces a different challenge: an interested owner with no interested developers.

"The county owns it," said Lyons. "We've worked with them, We've had the design center come in and take a look at what possibilities there are, but it's tough to get somebody to find a way to invest in that and get a proposal that might work on that."

It's not bad news for all properties. The Standard Knitting Mill just off Hall of Fame and Interstate 40 may show the most promise, but it's also the most at risk.

"There is progress happening there that we're happy to see, but it's slow and in the meantime vagrants are getting into the building and all it takes is one small fire to get out of control and you'll have a replay of this," said Trent.

Trent would like to see round the clock security at sites like these.

"It's a lot cheaper than a massive fire that could have set other buildings on fire," said Trent. "Lives are at stake. Not just historic buildings."

"We can do our best, but the real strategy is find a way to get these buildings into use and then you don't have fires very often in buildings that are occupied," said Lyons.

Lyons says Mayor Rogero has made that a top priority recommending $500,000 of her recent budget for historical preservation.

"There is progress either through private investment or through enforcement of building codes, but the fear that you have every night is that you're going to wake up to the television images that someone has set that place on fire or otherwise caused great harm to those buildings," said Trent.

Knox Heritage will release its 2014 Fragile Fifteen list on May 15. It will be the first time since the list began that the McClung Warehouses aren't on it.
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