While it may be quite some time before any action is taken – if at all – officials from Petal are kicking around ideas about the use of the former Petal Library on Central Avenue, which has sat vacant for the last several years.
Valerie Wilson, executive director of the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce, said that several years ago, she and the Petal Arts Council came up with the idea to use the building for artist space, including a gallery to showcase their work.
“I think one of our concerns, always, is that there’s not a lot of parking there,” she said. “So you can’t have any type of venue that would require parking space for a ton of people, because it just isn’t available.”
Wilson has also been in contact with officials from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, who expressed interest in visiting the building to determine whether it has historical value that might make it eligible for grant money. However, as of yet the department has not inspected the building.
“I do not know if they would consider this a building that needed to be conserved, and that they would be willing to help with grants,” Wilson said. “I have no idea what that would be like.
“But I would love to see it somehow rejuvenated, remodeled into a public building, because it is one of the few landmarks left in Petal from the old days. Many people remember going to that library and spending time there, and it would be wonderful to have it preserved one way or another.”
In addition to the arts space idea, Wilson has been approached by several different people about the building, although they haven’t exactly disclosed what their personal ambitions would be for the space.
“But many, many people have said, ‘I’d love to have that building,’ so there’s interest in it,” Wilson said. “Whether what their needs are in terms of the building matches what that building is able to give them, I have no idea at this point.
“I personally have not set foot in that building – I don’t remember if I’ve ever set foot in that building. So it’s hard to even advise people to whether it’d be a good option for them or not at this point. But it is fun to think that someone might be able to purchase that building and turn it into a wonderful, nostalgic part of Petal.”
If the building were to be preserved, it would present financial challenges in terms of renovation, including mitigating asbestos shingles on the outside.
“I have no idea what the inside looks like,” Wilson said. “I have heard that there are ‘creepies’ in the walls – I don’t know if that’s a fact or not, but that would certainly need to be addressed. And then we have no idea what electrical systems and plumbing systems and heating and air – what condition any of that is in.
“So I understand that it would be a tremendous investment for anybody to go in there and try to remodel it. On the other hand, it would be such as fabulous addition to our downtown. So I’m torn – I understand the capital expenses that would be required, and could you ever make enough money to justify it. But I certainly don’t want to see an empty parking lot there.”
The Petal Library is now located in Petal Civic Center on South Main Street in Petal.