Updated: Monday, 27 Sep 2010, 11:30 PM EDT
Published : Monday, 27 Sep 2010, 5:43 PM EDT
BELDING, Mich. (WOOD) - The Belding clock tower could be demolished, along with the old Gibson manufacturing facility that surrounds it -- but many city residents want the tower to be preserved.
They gathered Monday night to try and save a piece of Belding history.
Electrolux plans to destroy the clock tower and the 13 or so buildings that make up the old factory facility, sometime in late October.
The tower portion was built in 1903 by the Belding Brothers silk producers -- a landmark that has come to symbolize the tight-knit community.
"When I was young, that was a park," Belding resident Joan O'Connor said. "There were beautiful trees in it, there was like, a bandstand in it (and) we had the big board with all the veterans' names on it. It was really nice."
Electrolux re-purchased the facility from a Grand Rapids developer last week and plans to tear it down. The company is liable for contamination on the site.
But the group of concerned citizens says the area is worth saving.
"It's part of our identity," organizer Jon McGowan said. "It's in everything, from our letterhead to our view out the window."
The large footprint that would be left likely will be grassed over and fenced in, Belding's city manager told 24 Hour News 8.
Nearly 1,500 people have 'liked' a new Facebook group, Save Belding's Clock Tower , created by a city DDA member.
The campaign includes a petition, the Facebook page and a brainstorming session. Many have suggested making the tower a historical landmark, but that takes permission from Electrolux.
Most of the Facebook comments indicate Belding-area residents want the tower preserved, but some call it an eyesore that has stood too long.
Saving or moving the clock tower portion would take money the city doesn't have. There are unknown environmental issues, as well.
"I think the goal is to keep the historic portion," McGowan said.
The site served as an Electrolux factory until 1988 and produced window air conditioning units. The company closed in Greenville in 2006, a move that was less than popular in the area.
"We've got a lot of empty homes because they left town," Belding City Councilman Jon Bunce said.
City council members plan on trying to pass a moratorium to prevent demolition, they said, and also are looking into zoning the area as a historic district -- requiring less permission from the owners.
Electrolux officials have not made any final demolition decision and said they are willing to work with the city to come up with a solution. They assure nothing will happen until next year at the earliest.