Plans unveiled for Gibson Building, clock tower

By Cory Smith • Last Updated 10:16 am on Monday, October 17, 2011

Photos courtesy of the Silk City Preservation Society The original Gibson building circa early 1900s.

BELDING— More than 100 years ago, a park used to sit outside the original Gibson building in downtown Belding. The Silk City Preservation Society has hopes that one day a city park could lay adjacent to the building once again.
The historic district commission formed on Sept. 21, but it has already created a layout labeled “Our Vision” including artist renderings of what the site could one day look like.
“It used to be a park, it could once again be restored as a park,” said Jon McGowan, chairman of the preservation society and appointed member of the Historic District Commission.
“If you take that stuff (nonhistoric buildings) down, you can make those portions of land usable. As of right, now you can’t even see the original silk mill building because of the other building in front of it.”
“We need to redevelop the structure and make it appealing for a prospective developer. Right now, no one wants to touch it because they can’t see what is really there. It looks kind of scary, but if you cleaned up all of that, it might be an easier sell to develop the area.”
Electrolux’s current plan, which must be submitted to the city by Nov. 2, involves leveling the entire area, including the now historic original Gibson building and clock tower structures.
According to McGowan, this plan, which must be reviewed by the newly appointed historic commission, would be denied under its present design.
“Electrolux wants to demolish the entire area, but in the process leave behind concrete slabs that are as high as seven to nine feet tall,” McGowan said. “They’re primary reasoning behind demolition is public safety, yet they want to leave behind these unsafe chunks of concrete.”
McGowan said in order for a plan to be approved by the commission, Electrolux would have to leave the original Gibson building and clock tower intact and demolish all other nonhistoric buildings, including the concrete slabs and paved exterior areas.
McGowan is hoping that in time, Electrolux will present plans that include demolishing all nonhistoric buildings while also cleaning up all contaminated grounds beneath the buildings.
“The historic district is the only thing left of the original downtown Belding,” McGowan said. “In the 1970s they destroyed downtown and replaced it with a mall. You here many people today complain that we let that happen. We’re trying to avoid that scenario and save what remains of the original downtown Belding.”
Architect and commission member Duane Shore created the future renderings with the idea that the proposed site could help reshape downtown Belding, creating a park that would celebrate the history and heritage of Belding.
“You can see in our vision what this area could one day be,” Shore said. “This is one of the last remaining pieces of the original downtown Belding. To just let it disappear would be a shame.”

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