By Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
KEYSER - Three of the last remaining tenants of the Grand Central Business Center - located in the former Keyser High School building - have confirmed that they have been told they must evacuate the building by Dec. 31.
A fourth tenant, whose lease had already lapsed, was already looking for a new home.
Gina Spriggs, director of the Catamount Day Care Center, told the Mineral Daily News Tribune Wednesday that they had received a letter from Rick Thayer, vice president and director of credit risk for First United Bank & Trust, notifying them that "Grand Central building will close" at the end of the year.
"I think everyone got the same letter," a spokesperson for the Eastern West Virginia Community Action said, confirming that they, too, had received the notification.
Dick Long, with Spirit 101, the Christian radio station that broadcasts from an office on the third floor of the old high school, confirmed that they, too, had received the eviction notice.
"They put something under the door, and then we received a registered letter," he said, confirming that Dec. 31 was the deadline given for moving out.
David Vanscoy, of RK&K Engineering, which has occupied a suite of offices in one entire wing on the main floor for many years, said they had also received a letter but their lease had already lapsed and they had been searching for a new location.
"He (Thayer) came in and talked to us and gave a letter to everybody," Vanscoy said.
Grand Central was purchased by businessman Kris Warner of Morgantown in 1999 through an agreement with the Mineral County Board of Education and the Mineral County Development Authority.
At the time, Warner had promised to bring in 16 companies and an average of 350-400 new jobs once the 85,000 square-foot building was opened as the business center.
Since then, a myriad of businesses have come and gone in the old building. At one point, a chuck of the parking lot was sold off for the construction of CVS.
When the building was sold in June 2011 at the direction of a federal bankruptcy judge, First United, the lien holder, purchased it for $1.35 million. At the time, Thayer told the News Tribune that long-term plans were to find a permanent buyer for the property.
Since that time, many of the businesses and offices have moved out, leaving the day care center, radio station, RK&K, Community Action, Rescare and the Lifestyle Fitness gym, along with an unknown number of tenants in the upstairs apartments.
In the letter from Thayer, the businesses were told "the bank is taking this step reluctantly and only after several years of operating the building in hopes of finding a purchaser .... banks are not in the rental business."
Page 2 of 2 - Long said he was surprised to receive the letter just a few months after the bank had gone to the expense of installing new security doors at the exits.
Moving the offices and equipment will place "a major financial drain" on the radio station," he added.
Spriggs also noted that moving the day care center will be a major problem.
"I've got 60 kids that I've got to find a place for," she said.
Spriggs wants to assure her parents, however, that there will be a place for their children.
"Our doors will not be closing; they'll just be different doors," she said.
Repeated attempts by the News Tribune to reach Thayer went unanswered.