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If We Are Serious About Protecting Historical Buildings, We Need More Than Just Talk

Those who want to save buildings in downtown Jamestown need to come to a stark realization — there simply isn’t that much interest in the city’s vacant buildings.

The latest example is the former Joyce’s Keg Room, a building that once was part of a thriving Jamestown music scene that helped birth the 10,000 Maniacs. The West Eighth Street building has seen businesses come and go in the years since Joyce’s closed, but it has sat vacant for years. The current owner has sought to sell the building, but hasn’t had anyone interested in buying.

And therein lies the crux of the problem.

Facebook was abuzz recently with news that the building was going to be torn down, prompting hundreds of calls to save the building. Those calling to save the building have wonderful reasons. They remember seeing a favorite band there or had some of the most meaningful memories of their young adult years visiting with friends and listening to music in the venue. In a perfect world, the building would have been Joyce’s Keg Room until the end of time, with live bands playing every weekend and some of those bands hitting it big nationally like the 10,000 Maniacs once did.

Unfortunately, memories don’t redevelop old buildings and sustain their eventual reuse. Saving buildings like the Joyce’s Keg Room building takes the right kind of owners who act quickly before the building is so far gone that rehabilitation doesn’t make much economic sense. There may have been a future for Joyce’s Keg Room had renovations happened before the building sat vacant for years. The same is true of the Arcade Building and a host of other vacant buildings downtown. If we are serious about protecting our historical buildings, then we must do more than talk.

Jamestown has been far too reactive in recent years when it comes to its vacant building stock, and that reactive nature needs to change.

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