OXFORD, Miss. (Oxford Eagle) — If asbestos tests come back clean, the former National Guard Armory will be demolished. What will go in its place is still being considered by the Oxford Board of Aldermen.
“We all agree we need to take it down,” Mayor Pat Patterson said.
Called an eyesore by most of the aldermen during a work session held last week, the old armory will cost about $40,000 to demolish, City Engineer Bart Robinson said.
“We haven’t taken quotes yet, but we’ve had a few contractors take a look at it and just give us an estimate,” he said.
Robinson said they’re waiting on the results of the asbestos tests, and if they come back clean, the city will take bids for demolition.
Alderman Ulysses “Coach” Howell asked whether the city would keep the scrap metal to sell to regain some of the cost of demolition.
Robinson said he doubted there would be much left to scrap after demolition.
Earlier discussions had the aldermen agreeing to replace the armory with some type of open pavilion and landscaping to make it a place where people can gather for family reunions, church activities or community events.
While no formal survey or appraisal of the land has been done, Patterson estimated the land to be worth about $6 million.
“We’re going to put up a pavilion on a $6 million piece of property?” Howell asked.
Patterson said he didn’t want to sell the property.
“We don’t know what the future leaders of this town are going to need and I don’t want to sell it out from under them,” Patterson said Some earlier discussions about the future of the old armory included allowing nonprofits to use the building, but City Attorney Pope Mallette said the city would legally have to rent the building at fair market rental rates which most nonprofits could not afford.
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Alderman John Morgan said he was concerned about people wanting to use the area due to the high amount of traffic at the corner of Bramlett Boulevard and University Avenue where the armory is located.
“I just wonder if people will rather go to Pat Lamar Park or Avent Park with all the traffic there,” Morgan said. “I think we need to look at making it a little better than just a pavilion. We need to really think about this.”
The city’s new planner, Andrea Correll, who will officially take over after Tim Akers retires April 30, suggested holding a “charette,” where local architects are asked to brain storm ideas and present drawings to the city under a strict deadline.
“We tell them to spend their time and effort on a design and if we dig it, we’ll hire them to do the actual design,” Hughes said.
The aldermen are also considering replacing another old city building with more green space.
Last year, the aldermen agreed that the old Fire Station No. 1 on North Lamar Boulevard will need to be demolished after the new station is built on McElroy Drive and discussed keeping the space green and perhaps making it a “pocket park.”
During the work session last week, Correll made a suggestion to make the park a Public Servant Celebration Park, where monuments and plaques would be put to honor all emergency responders, such as firefighters, EMTs and law enforcement officers.
Patterson instructed Correll to work with Assistant City Planner Katrina Hourin, a landscape architect, to come up with some preliminary plans.