The old Danville Hotel area is rundown, acknowledged Mayor Mike Doyle recently, but be patient. New plans are on the drawing board for the central location.
"It is an eyesore but due to hard economic times it is difficult," Doyle said. "The Danville Hotel developers and the town are working together and hopefully will come up with something soon."
One by one, businesses have moved out of the structures, which were built in the 1950s as part of a revitalization of the downtown in Wild West mode. The Danville Territories, as they were known, reach from Hartz Avenue to Railroad, and the buildings are slowly succumbing to neglect.
The red gingerbread Danville Hotel Restaurant opened in the 1950s with its popular Silver Dollar Saloon; the latest occupant was Celia's, a Mexican restaurant that closed several years ago. Now shabby curtains can be seen through peeling windows.
Owner Thomas Baldacci of Castle Companies began working on ideas for the site in 2001, and plans were developed for a three-story structure with residential condos, commercial offices, retail stores and an underground parking garage.
"Our intention was to try to reach as much of a mixed variety as we could," said Baldacci.
The Planning Commission, Heritage Resource Commission and Historic Design Review Committee held hearings, and the town changed zoning to allow mixed uses on the site. But development was stalled due to bad economic times, said Baldacci.
Now he and the town are again considering the project, but the plans have changed.
"It will not be a three-story building, and there will be no underground parking," said Baldacci. "It will be significantly scaled back."
"I think the third story was uncomfortable for a lot of people although it is zoned for that option," he added. "But it seemed ahead of its time."
Even with the smaller development, financing is tenuous.
"In this environment, with a total collapse in commercial real estate lending, to do this project is going to be very difficult," Baldacci said. "At this point, the process is we'll work with the town and see, in fact, if through the consensus of the design we can go forward and try to get financing for the project."
Before pursuing lending, he needs a plan he knows he can forward with, he noted. "No lender is going to accept a conceptual plan," he said. "They are going to look for a plan that they believe is going to occur."
Baldacci said he is getting input from all the town departments, commissions and council members.
"What we're trying to do is collectively come up with a plan everyone is proud of and happy to go forward with," said Baldacci. "The irony of it is, once we agree and everything is done, I have to go out and get financing for it."
"I'm dedicated to doing a first-class job there," he added. "The Town of Danville has an outstanding planning staff. I think that if there's a way to get it done, the town will be able to make something happen."
The site is home to two of the town's heritage resources: the historic Danville Hotel, now Sideboard Cafe and the Polka Dot Attic; and the McCauley House, currently vacant but most recently occupied by a wine store. The businesses and buildings on Hartz Avenue will remain the same.