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Project views aired
Council hears opinions on NCI's plan for Baldwin Block
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Martinsville City Council on Monday heard concerns about how a building that the New College Institute (NCI) hopes to build on the Baldwin Block uptown would be situated on the vacant property.
NCI has proposed erecting a three-story, approximately 50,000-square-foot building that would have space for academic programs, community activities and a tribute to the block’s namesake, the late local physician/philanthropist Dana O. Baldwin.
The building would be erected in a corner of the block next to Fayette and West Market streets, but it would face West Church Street, plans show.
During the council’s neighborhood meeting at Albert Harris Elementary School, Tony Jones of Third Street said that when he heard about NCI’s plans, it “bothered me a little bit” that the back of the building would be next to Fayette Street.
That makes it seem like Baldwin would be turning his back on his neighborhood, Jones said.
Kenneth Carter, who owns a barber shop on Fayette, said that would be “a dishonor ... like a slap in the face” to Baldwin.
“If you’re going to honor this man,” Carter said, do so by erecting the front of the building “facing the street he built” up.
Gloria Hylton of Second Street mentioned she has heard that the Baldwin Block also is being targeted as the location for a medical school planned by Dr. Noel Boaz, founder of the Virginia Museum of Natural History.
Both the NCI building and the medical school building would be “very good for this spot” and would improve the area’s appearance, Hylton said.
The city owns the Baldwin Block and would have to donate it in order for a building to be constructed there. Hylton asked council members if they had given any thought to which building they would like to see on the block.
They did not indicate a preference.
Mayor Kim Adkins said she hopes “communications are occurring” between Boaz and NCI Executive Director William Wampler about whether they could work together.
Adkins repeated that comment after the meeting when asked whether the council had informally decided if either school should get the block.
A drawing shows room enough on the block to construct another building if NCI’s structure is erected.
Using the block for education purposes “would be a fitting tribute” to Baldwin, said Councilman Danny Turner.
Adkins also said she hopes NCI will get “community input on its renderings” for the building.
Wampler is scheduled to present NCI’s building plans to the council at its regular meeting at 7:30 tonight at the municipal building.
Jones said that when someone makes a pitch to use the Baldwin Block for a specific purpose, he hopes the council will ask how the plans would take into account needs of residents of Martinsville’s west side.
The west side consists of predominantly black neighborhoods. Some people in those neighborhoods have said they think the council over the years has neglected that side of the city.