Residents praise town for buying Armour St. Theater building
by Staff Writer
by Frank DeLoache
DAVIDSON – After recent questions about the town’s purchase of the building that is now Armour Street Theatre, supporters of the town’s decision came out in force at a Community Chat Tuesday.
Silent until now, a number of people praised the town board and Town Manager Leamon Brice for taking out a loan to buy the former church building and then leasing it to Davidson Community Players. Residents of the neighborhood and other town residents said the town’s action:
• Stopped a large development on the property that the neighborhood opposed.
• Provided a neighborhood park and the area north of Griffith Street and west of downtown lacked.
• Gave the town a long-term asset that Davidson Community Players is a home.
“The purchase of that property is exactly what I want my civic community to do,” one neighborhood resident said. “I live across the street, and I was thrilled by the town’s decision. I consider it a wise investment. I applaud it, and I hope they’ll do more.”
The discussion came at a quarterly community chat, which the mayor and commissioners hold in different parts of town. Tuesday’s two-hour meeting took place at Community School of Davidson’s modern airy high-school, which began as a General Time, a manufacturer of clocks for automobiles in the 1960s. The high school, at 404 Armour St., sits just a block way from the theater.
In recent weeks, some residents have questioned why the town would take on that debt and allow the theater group to cover only half the mortgage payment. And Tuesday night, Kristen Coupal, a candidate for the town board, asked about the town’s purchase and if Davidson Community Players will eventually reimburse the town for the entire loan.
Brice explained that the town and neighborhood residents already were concerned about the plans a developer had for the property. “We didn’t like it but we couldn’t do much about it,” he said.
One resident called the developer’s plans “unbelievably bad,” and Leland Park, who served on the town’s Design Review Board at the time, labeled it “absolutely dreadful.”
Then, leaders of the theater group came to the town, saying they were losing their space on the Davidson College campus but thought they could purchase the former church property from the developer. The group wanted help from the town, but Brice suggested the town could buy it tax free and then lease it back to the group.
The building became an asset the town will retain, with a renter to help make the mortgage payment, Brice said.
Dave Malushizky, president of the Davidson Historical Society, also praised the town’s efforts to foster reuse of buildings, much like the Community School of Davidson is reusing the former manufacturing plant.
Westside resident ask for help
Also Tuesday night, several residents of Davidson’s Westside community appealed for help cleaning up overgrown properties.
Elizabeth Wilson, the Rev. Dora Dubose and others said many properties west of downtown are empty or rented, and the owners have allowed the grass to grow high and tree limbs and other yard debris to collect. They spoke of overgrown properties on Houston and Watson streets, Mock Road and Mock Circle.
“It looks terrible,” an 80-year-old, lifetime resident of Davidson said. “We’ve got rats and snakes.”
The conditions of those rundown properties affects nearby homeowners who keep up their property and the entire neighborhood. Wilson asked if the town can help residents identify the owners of those properties and force them to clean up.
If a property owner does not keep up his or her property, the town can cut high grass and remove debris in the yard, placing a lien on the property, Brice said. But the Mecklenburg County Building Department is responsible if the owner allows the building itself to deteriorate.
Commissioner Margo Williams said the town surveyed rental property in town and determined about half of the owners lives outside Davidson. Sometimes, when the town sends those property owners registered letters to the address on file with the county, the postal service returns then undelivered, Brice said.
A resident of the Armour Street neighborhood, where Tuesday’s meeting took place, said many more homes in that area have converted to rentals in the recession. He credited Doug Wright, head of the town’s Public Works Department, with responding to property problems whenever residents called.
The key, many said Tuesday, is remaining alert and always letting Wright and other town officials know as problems arise or old problems resurface. Contact Public Works at 704 892-7591 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dubose also invited all the commissioners to take a walking-talking tour of the Westside neighborhood. Woods said he’s accepted Dubose’s invitation before and agreed to make a return trip.