Canton’s Main Street Board has signed an agreement to lease the small empty lot on the corner of East Main and Elizabeth streets in hopes of making over the land and using it as a park for small concerts and movies, said Main Street Director Meghan Griffin.
Within the agreement, Griffin said the Main Street board will shell out $700 per year and will be filling the hole the building left with dirt, which it appears will be donated. The money will not come from the portion of Main Street’s budget that comes from Canton taxpayer dollars, she added.
Griffin said the agreement could be canceled at any time if for some reason Main Street wanted out, or if the property owners wanted to sell the land.
But no matter how long Main Street can use the land, Griffin said she hopes the plans will help to “beautify” downtown Canton.
“First off, with the work that’s being done downtown … we want to just create a more beautiful landscape down there,” Griffin said. “When the Canton Drug Company burned down in 2009, it left a hole — quite literally a hole. It’s really just to (help) downtown to make it attractive and make it available.”
John Fincher is one of the two property owners the Main Street board has struck the deal with, along with John Adkins.
Fincher said Thursday the loss of the building was a blow to downtown Canton, where it had stood since the 1920s, but that rebuilding it didn’t make economic sense.
“It was very distressing,” said Fincher, who ran an art gallery in the building before the fire. “The expense of rebuilding the building the way the economy was at the time, it wasn’t very advantageous.”
Fincher said he had no immediate plans to sell the land, and he wasn’t sure what would happen moving forward.
But he does like the Main Street Board’s ideas.
“I think it’d be fantastic,” he said.
Mayor Gene Hobgood also said he was pleased with the plans.
“I think it’s a good deal, I really do,” Hobgood said Thursday. “We appreciate the owners actually working with the Main Street (board). It’s not like (the owners) are going to get rich.”
Hobgood said the Main Street Board had been working on the plans for about a year, and originally, the property owners asked the city to forgive their property taxes in exchange for use of the land.
“We cannot waive property taxes,” the mayor said. “You can’t give any type of property tax relief without a referendum.”
But each of the owners will be getting $350 a year, and Hobgood said that price will likely help with their property taxes.
Hobgood said he thinks Main Street’s work on the property, which many have called an eyesore since the fire, will change the look a bit in downtown.
“It’s going to clean up that corner a little bit,” he said. “Hopefully, from now on that corner will be in somewhat of an improved state once Main Street gets through with it.”