MENASHA, Wis. (NBC 26) -- On Tuesday sections of the historic Whiting Paper Mill building in Menasha started to be demolished. But city leaders say the potential changes coming to the lakefront property could benefit the community.
Out of safety concerns for the public, many of whom were getting too close for law enforcement's comfort, the Whiting Paper Mill started to be demolished on Tuesday.
The history of the paper mill started 134 years ago and many in Menasha knew someone who worked at the mill during its storied history. Perhaps, that's why many people are trying to get a close glimpse of it before it's gone even with the serious concerns of city leaders.
"We've staged firefighters and police officers here overnight now just because we still have people trying to get in to take pictures. So we want to make sure that we're safe," says Chief Kevin Kloehn of the Neenah Menasha Fire-Rescue Department.
Chief Kloehn says because of the increased traffic at the mill, the structure has to start coming down.
"The structure is totally compromised. You can see the perimeter of the walls are still standing but they are very weak," Chief Kloehn says with concern.
So, what's next for the former mill site? Well, the city's mayor, Don Merkes says their back to square one, just minus a historic building to renovate.
"So before the fire, we were working on quite a few different things with different developers for the past five or six years," says Mayor Merkes who is hopeful that developers will show an increased interest in the site.
Sitting on some prime retail estate for Menasha, right along the water, Mayor Merkes Says the future of the demolished site could present some new opportunities for developers.
"So we have looked at some residential and some small commercial opportunities. Things that deal with waterfront access and small commercial retail type spaces, or restaurant, entertainment type spaces."
For now, though, the demolition has just begun and city leaders say while the destruction of the mill will be costly it could present some benefits for developers in the future.
"So, the conversation is more or less starting over. We had some great ideas here. This may allow for a larger development here than it would have been with the Whiting site," adds Mayor Merkes.
The demolition of this building will not happen overnight. The city's mayor says the costly endeavor will likely take several months to be completed.