Supporters scramble to save Kilby Hotel

Aug. 11, 2013 @ 03:00 PM

Owners of an historic Washington Street property are seeking help from the city in their efforts to prevent it from being torn down.
The city has put owners of the former Kilby Hotel on notice that demolition of the 103-year-old building may be ordered within 90 days unless repairs are made to stabilize it and prevent its collapse.
Several months ago, the Kilby’s roof collapsed into the third floor, which fell into the second floor. The city declared it unsafe and on the verge of collapse, and closed a portion of the area around it to pedestrian and vehicle traffic.
Officials said that the only way to save the building is to stabilize its exterior walls.
Myra Williams of Greensboro, the fifth-generation owner of the Kilby, said it will take $175,000 to $300,000 to shore up the walls and clean out the interior.
“Saving the Kilby Hotel is extremely important to the historic distict of Washington Drive. Do not contribute to us losing a huge part of the African-American history of High Point,” Williams told the council recently.
Williams said she and others involved with the property want to restore it and develop it into retail, office and apartments at a total cost of $2.83 million.
Williams said they have been trying to raise money but do not have any of their own funds to put toward the restoration of the building. They have been courting investors and are applying for nonprofit status, which would enable them to seek grants and tax credits.
The Kilby, built in 1910, served as an entertainment hub during the days of racial segregation in the early and middle part of the 20th century. The hotel was among the most prominent establishments in what was then the heart of the city’s black business community. It was named to the National Register of Historic Places in the 1980s.
The hotel, and the ground-floor shops that operated in it, closed a number of years ago, and the building fell into disrepair. Restoration of the building has long been a goal of the ongoing revitalization efforts in the Washington Street area.
Williams and other supporters of the Kilby appear to face a tough sell in seeking city funds.
City leaders said the hotel’s condition presents a public-safety threat that has to be addressed.
“I want the Kilby to be rehabbed. We’re looking at a very fiscally conservative budget. I don’t know if there’s another $175,000 or $300,000 to assist,” said Mayor Bernita Sims. “I just don’t know how to do it, short of some private investment to make that happen.”
Council members said they appreciate the Kilby’s historical significance but aren’t receptive to the price tag involved.
“I think now it’s very difficult for us, because that’s a fairly large amount of money for a council that struggled with how we were going to make ends meet as it was when we went through budget process,” said Councilwoman Judy Mendenhall.
Williams said an engineer who examined the property pronounced it structurally sound.
The city’s action on the property gives the owners time to make some type of progress toward repairs, which could stave off an order to demolish when council considers the matter in 90 days.
“A lot of us are very irritated about how the city is not wanting to help,” said Williams. “I just feel like I don’t have enough time.”