Editorial: Longview taking right course to improve Junction area downtown

It is always exciting to see building going on around Longview, be it a multi-story office building or a single-family home. It shows growth and optimism for the future.

What we don’t often think of when watching a building go up is that, someday — maybe far into the future — there may be a need to bring it down.

This is not the fate of every building, but when a structure that needs to come down is allowed to stand until it becomes an eyesore, or presents a danger, it turns the optimism on its head.

It is a problem for every city, and Longview has done as well handling it as most others we have seen. The difficulty is that it is a never-ending concern. Just as one area is cured of dilapidated buildings, another is spotted, often in even worse condition.

Longview now is faced with trying to rehabilitate the Junction area of the city, which involves a stretch of Methvin Street and is one of the gateways to downtown Longview.

The city’s central business district is a point of pride for Longview. Upgrades and redevelopment there in recent years make it stand out when compared to many other East Texas cities.

Unfortunately, the major arteries that lead to downtown leave much to be desired. This stretch of Methvin Street is one of those problem areas. Its redevelopment was a goal set in a small area plan for downtown adopted by the City Council in 2017. We are pleased to see it being acted upon.

As might be expected, change does not come easily. Action cannot begin until there are code violations, and those are plentiful in the Junction area. Notices must then be sent to property owners, explaining the problems and giving a reasonable amount of time to get the work done.

Unless there is clear and present danger to the public, the city’s enforcement is not usually onerous. If property owners want additional time to complete work they have already begun, that is usually available to them.

At some point, however, the gentle nudge is going to have to become a bit more of a push. Without the assurance of full enforcement, there are property owners who would never correct code violations, and the buildings that are crumbling now will be disastrous within just a few years.

With the work of Code Officer Sabrina Graves and Development Services Director Michael Shirley, we feel confident that work to upgrade the Junction won’t lapse from their efforts. It is important to remember, though, that support for this work needs to go all the way to the top, not just to the city manager but the mayor and City Council, too.

There may be no problems with this particular enforcement project and everyone might take part voluntarily and quickly. That is not always the case. In some instances, property owners use every possible tactic to slow down the process.

This is understandable, as a great deal of money might be at stake. But that comes behind what is best for our city. Property owners generally know when they have code violations well before they are sent the first official notice.

The city is willing to support them going through the process, but ultimately, the property is owned by private citizens who will only stand to gain by the work they do. That ought to be impetus enough.

Today's Bible verse

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.”

— Titus 2:11

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