Former city hall well positioned to aid downtown


Looking for an investment property, a fixer-upper, one that is well-located, charming, has plenty of historically significant stories to tell — and is priced to move?

If so, the city of Lumberton has a deal for you.

It has put on the market a nearly 100-year-old municipal building that initially housed City Hall and served townspeople as a fire house. The two-story, 7,520-square-foot building, which sits at 112 N. Elm St. (the door says 104), can be yours for $39,000, which is a bit more than the $11,000 cost of construction when ground was broken for it in 1917.

It is being marketed by Preservation North Carolina, and details that a buyer would want can be found at www.presnc.org/properties/former-lumberton-municipal-building.

The historic building almost had a date with a wrecking ball, but more than 500 people signed a petition in protest, persuading the city to see if it could be sold, rehabilitated and perhaps become a key player in the continuing struggle to revitalize downtown.

What is needed is an investor with a vision for the deep-red brick building, which is positioned at the back end of the historic downtown district, just a couple of stones throws from the Lumber River, which is part of a state park, and a single toss from the downtown plaza, which has become the gathering place for downtown events.

Its features a firetruck garage too cozy for today’s big machines and an iron light fixture above the entrance.

“Dignified, carefully detailed,” a 1989 registration form entering Lumberton’s downtown district in the National Registry of Historic Places says of the building.

City Councilman Leroy Rising, who sells real estate for a living, sees great potential.

“‘It’s a gem just waiting for someone to pick up and do something with it,” he said.

The building has been shown about 20 times, but no one has bitten yet. The consensus is the downstairs would work for commercial space, perhaps a cafe that would beckon people for a cup a coffee and a snack before the daily grind, while the spacious upstairs could be converted into apartments.

“It has such great curb appeal, I think, and it’s in such a good location, it could be a real landmark on the plaza,” Rising said.

Our guess is that a clever negotiator could get an even better price. The city has less interest in gaining $39,000 than it does in finding a buyer who would pay taxes on it and again make it an asset for downtown Lumberton. And there is also the possibility of getting state tax credits available for preservation that would offset some of the costs of renovations.

A building that in the past so nobly served the city is deserving of the chance to also be a part of its future.

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