There’s controversy in Belding these days regarding the city’s consent agreement with Electrolux and the impending demolition of the Gibson buildings and property in the heart of town.
Those buildings represent 110 years of Belding history and it’s easy to understand disappointment in a settlement that cost $200,000 to pursue.
The effort and the cost, however, might just be the best deal that could be had under the circumstances. The judgment is not without some return of rights to the city, considering that the property is privately owned. The preservation of critical parts of the clock and tower and assistance in creating a park in their historic district makes the best of a bad situation. Without the effort and the expense put forth by Belding’s leaders, the city could have ended up with nothing but a six-foot fence surrounding a vacant lot.
The controversy points to a dilemma facing our local cities and towns and the solutions likely won’t be coming soon. To understand the enormity of the problem, travel by train from Detroit to Chicago. You’ll be overwhelmed by the number of abandoned and once-bustling American manufacturing plants now dilapidated and decaying, languishing alongside one of the few remaining Michigan rail lines. We’re not alone with concerns about how to handle abandoned plants and how to recover the land. A lot also depends on what lies below the surface. It costs huge sums of money to restore the soil.
Greenville lost its largest manufacturer. A strategy has not yet been announced for determining what the future holds for “Gibson Acres” along the river. Belding, having spent real money in order to preserve a landmark in their city is still wrestling for an agreeable outcome.
The era for the large manufacturing facilities is gone for both cities. That’s not to say there won’t be new enterprise, new opportunities, and new jobs. In some ways, it’s already happening. They will come because we’re great places to live and because we still have much the same natural attraction that caused the earliest adventurers to settle along the Flat River.
These are lean times, and patience is an appropriate virtue. We are left to imagine — and then to initiate — what’s going to happen in this 21st century tale of two cities.
Editorial opinions are the consensus of The Daily News editorial board.