Huntington City Hall Annex coming down - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Huntington City Hall Annex coming down

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By JAMES E. CASTO

For the State Journal

HUNTINGTON – A long-time downtown eyesore, the Huntington City Hall Annex, is coming down.

Demolition of the once-elegant structure in the 800 block of 5th Avenue began April 27 and is expected to take two weeks. Once the building is down and the debris cleared, the property will become a parking lot for a nearby condo complex.

The three-story building was known as the Fifth Avenue Arcade when Huntington businessman Walter Lewis Sr. had it built in 1925 as a companion to his Lewis Arcade on 4th Avenue. Lewis, who died in 1970, owned a regional chain of furniture stores and had extensive real estate investments in Huntington.

In its early years, the building housed offices for doctors and lawyers, as well as an upscale beauty parlor and even a U.S. Army recruiting station. When Polan Realty Corp. purchased the building in 1946, the U.S. Veterans Administration was the primary tenant. In 1960, workers in John F. Kennedy's successful presidential primary campaign used some of the building's offices

Polan Realty acquired the structure, renamed it the Polan Building and drastically altered its appearance. The building's original marquee was removed and a modern facade constructed.

The building stood only a few yards from nearby Huntington City Hall and so, when the city needed additional office space in the 1970s, it purchased the structure and re-named it the City Hall Annex. Over the next 20 years, it housed a variety of city offices but also fell into serious disrepair. In 1999, safety concerns forced its closure.

In recent years, the city attempted to interest developers in rehabilitating the once-proud building but found no takers.

Developer Shane Radcliff purchased the building from the city for $100,000 late last year and announced he would demolish it and use the property for the condo complex he's developing across the alley at 831 4th Avenue. Radcliff is revamping the former O.J. Morrison department store building, built in 1919, into 11 loft-style condos and first-floor retail space.