The future of three dining establishments damaged by a November fire on the Western Carolina University campus remains unknown as state insurance and construction officials continue analyzing the structural integrity of the building and conducting a financial assessment of the damages.
Representatives of the State Construction Office and N.C. Department of Insurance were on the scene the day after the fire to begin their work. University officials say they do not know how long that work may take, but caution that it could require as long as a year to complete.
No injuries were reported during the fire, which broke out in the morning hours of Thursday, Nov. 21, in the commercial strip of Centennial Drive in the center of the WCU campus. The blaze damaged the Subway sandwich shop, Rolling Stone Burrito and Mad Batter Bakery and café.
The businesses are located on the ground floor of the two-story structure. The second story of the building, which had contained apartments until several years ago, was unoccupied. The section of the building that houses Bob’s Mini Mart was not damaged.
The property affected by the fire is owned by the WCU Endowment Fund and leased to the business owners. The structure was formerly the site of the Townhouse restaurant, a longtime campus landmark and a popular gathering place for students, faculty and staff from the late 1940s to the mid-1980s.
“We certainly would like to know as quickly as possible what will happen with this building located in the heart of campus,” Chancellor David O. Belcher said. “But we also realize that there are state policies and procedures that must be followed, and we understand that the process inevitably will take some time. We will keep the campus and community informed as additional information becomes available.”
The university has established a website for updated information about the fire and its aftermath at http://fire.wcu.edu.