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On the evening of September 14, 2017, the City of Douglas began the demolition of a building on the 100 block of South Madison Avenue. An excavator tore down the facade of the two-story edifice and it crashed onto the eastern sidewalk. In the weeks leading up to the demolition the city sent numerous press releases to the media and made announcements at municipal meetings.
On August 14, 2017, Sid Cottingham, the building’s previous owner, deeded the building and the land to the city. Cottingham had owned the property since 1985 and it was deeded as a gift. Cottingham received no compensation in exchange. The property was, however, valued at $72,520. Cottingham can be said to have donated that amount of money to the City of Douglas.
City Manager Terrell Jacobs spoke with DouglasNow about the city’s acquisition of the property. He emphasized the fact that Cottingham received no compensation. “Mr. Cottingham gifted that piece of property to the city with the understanding that the building would be demolished,” he said. Jacobs went on to say that these kinds of property transactions - donations from private individuals to the city - are quite typical and had occurred at least two or three times during his tenure as city manager.
“Our building inspector condemned the building and Mr. Cottingham gave it to the city. Then, once it was the city’s, the city could basically do what they wanted with it,” said Jacobs. He went on to say that the primary factor in the decision to demolish the was the safety of the people of Douglas.
The next factor seems to be financial. Jacobs said that the demolition cost “a little over” $100,000. Mayor Tony Paulk and the city commission determined that accepting the donation and investing in the demolition would pay dividends to the residents of Douglas. When demolition is complete the city may decide to sell the land upon which the building once stood or incorporate the parcel into the Downtown Master Plan.
Although he would not say which idea he thought was best, Jacobs did go on at length about the benefits to be realized from creating a plaza on Madison Avenue, just as the Master Plan allows. He said that, “...many downtowns fail because they don’t reinvent themselves. We want to make sure that our downtown maintains a feeling of vibrancy for greater commercial and cultural vitality.”
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