Mary Suhm Would Love to Sell Some Old, Empty Libraries. Just Not Yet.

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Speaking of library branches ...

Let's return for a moment to the subject of vacant city buildings, chief among them the branches that have been replaced by new-and-improveds (like, say, boarded-up Walnut Hill and that canvas Casa View). Because when last we spoke with City Manager Mary Suhm about the subject in June, she mentioned something about how "a group of cultural nonprofits [is] looking at the Casa View library." I called to ask her: How's that going, anyhow?

"Still working on it," she says. Problem is, the groups need between $700,000 and $800,000 to get Casa View back up and running, and though Suhm acknowledges that's a lot of bread, in June, at least, she "felt comfortable they'd get it." But that was the last time she spoke to them about it.

In the meantime, though, she says she's been approached about the boarded-up Walnut Hill branch, which could wind up in the hands of a charter school. And the Lancaster-Kiest branch could go to an interested developer, given the Office of Economic Development's Lancaster Corridor Initiative. "There's probably a market for that" location, she says.

All three branches recently made Preservation Dallas's most-endangered list. But Suhm doesn't want to part with the properties just to part with them -- not when the market's in the dumper and the city would get pennies on the dollar.

"It's a bad time because I can't sell 'em for anything, so I don't want to sell," she says. "Several of them we've put on the market, but the market's so bad I could keep them for a long time and not spend what I'd lose on them. It's not responsible. I am hopeful about Lancaster-Kiest and Walnut Hill. It's just everybody's in an economic pinch, and even if somebody buys them for nothing, they still can't get financing for them, and then they don't take care of them, so we're writing tickets and mowing 'em and putting liens on the property, and it comes full circle. Time will take care of it."

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