Larry Bolling, potentate of the Beni Kedem organization in Charleston, said Wednesday the group's shrine building on Quarrier Street near the Civic Center is not for sale.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As Charleston leaders gear up to renew and expand the aging Civic Center, a longtime member of Beni Kedem says the nearby shrine property could be available. The question remains, however: At what price?
Mayor Danny Jones and City Manager David Molgaard eyed the Beni Kedem property in 2007, after a consultant told them they needed to upgrade the Civic Center to keep pace with other cities and attract larger conventions.
The temple, along with the Fifth Quarter restaurant site owned by the shrine, occupies about a quarter of the superblock bounded by Quarrier, Clendenin and Lee streets and the Elk River. As such, it's the obvious place for the Civic Center to expand.
But its location along a busy street, across from Charleston Town Center Mall, also makes it a prime piece of downtown real estate.
Representatives from Beni Kedem and the city talked about a sale in 2007, but couldn't agree on a price.
"We had a considerable amount of frustration about whether they were willing to sell and at what price," Molgaard said Monday. "There didn't seem to be any consensus, and there seemed to be some resistance within the organization."
In 2007, Molgaard told the Gazette he understood Beni Kedem appraisals showed the property was worth nearly $5 million. "We're not willing to pay that," he said at the time.
John Campbell, a shrine member since 1982, said he was involved in those negotiations.
"We had all kinds of offers four, five years ago -- $2 million, $4 million," Campbell said. "I said, 'Wait a minute. BrickStreet paid $9 million for their corner. This is a heck of a lot better property.'"
After negotiations broke down, city leaders looked at other solutions, and decided to stay within the existing footprint, Molgaard said.
"The one I think stands out is to develop an elevated banquet space above the back parking lot/staging area along Lee Street," near the Grand Hall.