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Local

WOW group: Building should be demolished

WALNUT — After several weeks of in-depth research and discussion, a community committee has recommended to the Walnut Village Board that the former bank building on Main Street be demolished.

The committee contains representation from the Walnut Fire Department, the village of Walnut Local Improvements Committee, and WOW: Working on Walnut.

The group was established in March with four goals, prioritized in the following order:

1) Reopen Liberty Street to safe, two-way traffic and, more important, a clear path for fire and rescue vehicles, as quickly as possible.

2) Determine a go-forward strategy for the property, either involving demolition or preservation, based on the feasibility and needs of the community.

3) Assist in securing funds for the intended go-forward strategy.

4) Develop a site usage plan to best benefit the community of Walnut.

With safety top of mind and the Main Street bridge closure scheduled for May, the group discussed at length the recommendations of engineers, contractors and safety professionals regarding the current condition of the building and the impact to public safety.

Additional consideration was given to the hazardous materials assessment provided to the Walnut Village Board, options for safely renovating or restoring the building, and timelines necessary for several go-forward strategies.

The group also began exploring funds potentially available to support these strategies, including public and private grants, as well as low-interest loans.

After much consideration, the final recommendation from the committee to the Walnut Village Board is a three-step project. The committee has requested the Village Board consider taking immediate ownership and action on the first two steps — asbestos abatement and structure demolition.

At the same time, the committee will narrow its focus to the third step — revitalize the property, by developing a multi-year project plan and obtaining the funds necessary for execution.

Those interested in joining the committee and helping develop the future of Main Street in Walnut are encouraged to share ideas and attend a public meeting that will be announced in the near future. Contact the committee at libertyandmain@walnutillinois.com.

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