For the past couple months there has been much debate in Hillsboro about the plight of some buildings in the 100 block of West Main Street. First, former Hillsboro Building Inspector Anton Weissmann placed signs on the buildings saying they were uninhabitable. Then when part of one them collapsed not long thereafter, the city seemed justified in its concerns.
Now the issue is tied up in the court system.
Some say the buildings are in such bad shape they should be tore down. Others say they will be just fine with a little work.
I have no idea what shape the buildings are actually in, although it certainly appears that one of them, the Parker House, is beyond repair.
How it will all play out I do not know. But the whole episode opens the door for me to ask a question I’ve wanted to ask for a long time — what about the former Gross Fiebel building in Hillsboro, which the city now owns?
It’s the shell of a building on North Elm Street that is probably the city’s biggest eyesore, and has been for decades. It’s missing a large part of its roof, has most of its windows broken out, and has several open entrances that anyone — young children or anyone else — could easily enter.
So my question is, if the city is going place signs on uptown buildings it deems questionable for habitation, why has it never done anything about the Gross Fiebel building?
And even if the situation with the West Main Street buildings did not exist, why were the previous owners of the Gross Fiebel building never called into question?
Is there something I’m missing or do not understand?
In the 1970s, when I was a member of the Hillsboro High School track team, during my freshman and sophomore years I was required to run past the building nearly every day. It was ugly back then, and it was not unusual to see kids throwing rocks at the plethora of glass windows even in those days.
These days, I am told, kids others regularly enter the building. Maybe they’re looking for a place for a romantic rendezvous. Maybe it’s drug den. Maybe it serves as shelter to some with no home. Likely, it serves all three purposes.
So why has nothing ever been done about the building?
If the city is concerned with buildings others own, would it not make sense for it to be even more concerned about a building it owns that looks like a disaster waiting to happen?
If I am not mistaken, the city has only owned the building since 2017. But when the city purchased it, Mayor Drew Hastings called it “the biggest blight site we have in the city.”
At the time, Hastings said the property could possibly be turned into a light industrial zone for small businesses. But that has not happened. More recently, the mayor said the city currently does not have funds to do anything with the building.
The purpose here is not to throw stones at the mayor. He has purchased and updated several buildings in the uptown area, and there were many city officials before him that turned a blind eye to the Gross Fiebel building.
It is way past time for something do be done. The building is an embarrassment to the city and its residents. When people visit Hillsboro for a football game, at first they must be in awe of the picturesque setting that is Richards Memorial Field. But when they look closer, it impossible for them not to see the Gross Fiebel building that overlooks the field’s east end zone.
It has made me sick for years to wonder what visitors must think when they see such an eyesore, especially when they return year after year and see the same deplorable building, only getting worse with age.
The same goes for visitors that will take North Elm Street to the Highland County Fair in a couple weeks.
Every town has its eyesores. Many of them are tucked away in remote corners. The Gross Fiebel building is not.
I am tired of looking at it. I am tired of visitors to our city looking at it. I am tired of worrying about the misery it could cause. Surely I am not the only one.
Is it going to take someone getting hurt there, or worse, to make it go away?
I hope not. Because if something is not done, that’s what’s going to happen.
Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-402-2522.