Members of the Danville Architectural Review Board, though, are not sold on the need to tear down the old newspaper building to make way for a ground-level helipad at the intersection of Walnut and South Fourth streets.
Danville recently expanded the boundaries of its downtown historic district, and ARB members were confronted with their first challenge sooner than expected at their meeting Wednesday.
Hospital CEO Clark Taylor appeared before the board to request permission to demolish the former Advocate building at 326 W. Walnut St.
In recent years, the hospital has used the building for classroom space and to sell medical supplies, but it is now empty, Taylor said.
The hospital already has obtained a demolition permit from the Danville-Boyle County Planning and Zoning office. Apparently, it was obtained July 15, the same day the city voted to enlarge the historic district.
"Our intent to remove the building has been clear for at least three years," Nickens said. "We are not trying to be devious in any way and want to be in compliance with the direction of the city. We just felt that having a permit in hand would strengthen our position going forward."
Nickens said the hospital had been in no hurry to obtain a demolition permit, but once the July 15 meeting seemed to be headed for a vote, engineer Clayton Denny was sent to the P&Z office to obtain the permit.
HCL Inc. of Louisville is listed as the contractor for demolition, and the estimated demolition date is listed as Sept. 14.
P&Z Director Paula Bary said that when she returned from the City Commission meeting, the permit already had been issued and she assumes it is valid. Bary said there is no expiration date for demolition permits issued through P&Z.
Question of ARB approval
Whether the hospital must obtain ARB approval before demolishing the building remains unclear. The review board has tabled the request for two weeks.
If the hospital opts to demolish the building without ARB approval, City Attorney Vince Pennington said that the City Commission could seek an injunction to stop work.
Both Nickens and Taylor indicated that the hospital plans to continue working through the review board process.
However, if Wednesday's meeting is any indication, the hospital may have a difficult time convincing the review board to grant permission to take down the building.
The primary criteria that review board members will consider are whether the building is historically significant and whether forbidding the demolition will cause financial hardship for the hospital.
Review board members Les Letton and Ken Medaris said the building has historical significance because of the role the newspaper played in the community.
"I think The Advocate-Messenger building is worth saving," Letton said. "Not only was it a part of Danville's history, but I think the building gives something to the streetscape."
Taylor said the building does not have substantial historical significance, though. Portions of the structure, including the front windows, have been changed in the past without consideration for historical accuracy.
If demolition is not approved, it would impede plans for the helipad, he said.
A helipad would require approval from federal and state aviation officials, which has not yet been received. Taylor indicated that regardless of whether a helipad at ground level is feasible, the hospital still needs the space to improve traffic flow for the emergency department.
At Wednesday's meeting, Letton expressed dissatisfaction over the way the hospital had attempted to avoid inclusion in the historic district.
"I still have a bad taste in my mouth because of the way the hospital has gone about the whole process," Letton said. "Their history with this board is not good."
If the request to demolish the building is denied, Nickens said the hospital likely will pursue the case in Boyle County Circuit Court, the next step of the appeals process, according to the city ordinance.