City to address downtown dilapidated buildings after wall collapse

Collapsed Wall Downtown
Collapsed Wall Downtown

WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - Wichita Falls city leaders are trying to figure out the best way to address the dilapidated buildings that are sitting downtown.

Last week a wall outside one of those buildings collapsed. Deputy City Manager, Jim Dockery, said the hardest part is to find the money to tear them down.

It's an issue property owner of the old Southwestern Bell building, Erik Scott, thinks needs to be addressed, along with others, for a successful revitalization downtown.

"You got to want to come downtown," Scott said. "It's been empty for so long that there really has to be a reason to get people to go there."

Why does he believe downtown has dilapidated buildings?

"Either nobody owns them or have fallen into taxes, or the owner doesn't live locally and they just don't care," Scott said. "That's the issue."

Scott feels safe in his building, but not all of them.

"There are others that I walked through when we were looking for a building to purchase that definitely didn't feel safe," he said. "The wood was rotted out in some and it depended on the structures as well."

Dockery said the collapsed wall was immediately addressed.

"As soon as that wall was identified we took corrective actions with the property owner and they had to address it very quickly to get it taken care of," Dockery said.

He said the city has codes and requirements to keep the occupied buildings safe. But he believes it is a problem that needs to be looked at.

"We need a funding source to address removing the structures," Dockery said. "Either the property owner themselves needs to do it or we need to take care of it and place a lean on that property."

Scott said the best way to fix the problem is to fill the buildings. But he doesn't believe that will happen with some of the requirements that are in place.

"There's a lot of really good buildings downtown that people want to buy," Scott said. "But then they hear of people like us who have their woes with the city and the codes and decide they will go invest somewhere else."

Scott said another idea is to focus on landscaping, fixing the sidewalks, and make everything look cared for.

Dockery agrees and said that's in their plans moving forward.

Consultant firm Freese and Nichols was hired by the city on Tuesday to help them with the downtown effort. They will not focus on buildings, but instead on beautification.

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