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January 19 // Demolition by Neglect

Well, it's not the first time the phrase has been used, but we have so recently seen evidence of this with the way that the former Police and Fire station went down at La Salle square, followed by the way the Fruit and Produce Warehouse also came down. I might not have invented the term, but I did post this snarky missive on Urban Planet and then my Fruit Warehouse page before it apparently started making the rounds on the other blogs, like RI Future and GCPVD, before eventually landing on Ian Donnis's Pheonix blog. Here it is again, with a few small additions:

How to Demolish a National Register Building in 10 Easy Steps:

  1. Acquire a building that was once used for industry, preferably an obsolete one. These buildings have been known to be situated close to water and shipping lanes, so will have great views which you can exploit later.
  2. Don't worry if the building was on the National Register, or protected by the State. Don’t listen to the people who may have great ideas to redevelop the project. You don't want all that hassle and all those “conversations”.
  3. Sit on it. For a long time. It would help if it was already derelict when you bought it because the previous owner was losing money as their industry was becoming obsolete.
  4. Let graffiti accumulate. Hipsters will love it, but they don’t vote and so they won’t raise an eyebrow when you eventually take it down.
  5. The neighborhood will soon forget about the activity that went on there and the buildings own “glory days”. It will start to look horrible, and they will start to complain about it.
  6. Keep sitting on it. It would help if you complained about the cost of potential renovations while you did so.
  7. Let security around the perimeter go lax. Teenagers and vagrants will get in, wreck the place, and maybe start a fire or two. If you are lucky, that will take care of it. If not, it becomes a hazard and a public nuisance.
  8. Finally, after years of neglect, declare the place not worth saving, and obtain an Emergency Demolition Permit, which trumps all Historic considerations in favor of Public Safety. The city will go along because the neighbors have been complaining, and since you hold the checkbook, they will be too scared to demand anything more from you.
  9. (Optional) Build a parking lot while you “wait for the market to become ripe” (see Gulf Station and the Police and Fire Station as examples)
  10. Build something there that won’t last for as long as the building you just let go to waste, but instead will remain shiny and new for about five. Sell it off once you’ve made your money, and let them worry about the upkeep. (see the 903 as an example, which replaced the Merchants Cold Storage building.)

More examples: Police and Fire Station, the Cranston Street Trolley Barn, Grove Street School, and the One Ten (an interesting variation, in which you tell the city that in exchange for some historic buildings, you’ll build a shiny new skyscraper… except that you don’t build it.)

To his credit, even though the Fruit and Produce Warehouse came down duing his reign, on Thursday January 17 Mayor Cicilline announced an Executive Order to set up more of a process, and hold the building owners accountable for their decaying properties. This whole fiasco at the Produce Warehouse will hopefully make Demolition by Neglect much harder.

April 6 // A Green Mayor Cuts Taxes?

Everyone thinks we liberal-minded, democratic people are big spenders, out to take the innocent tax payer for a ride. Some of us may be, but when people think of even lefter people than the typical democrat, they may think that they want to spend even more money on frivolous things. Well, Jason West gives lefties a good name. Since becomming mayor of New Paltz, NY, he has cut taxes every year and converted the city to use more renewable energy. He has helped:

  • Build the first phase of a reed bed system to turn our sewage into compost rather than mix it with toxic chemicals and ship it to landfills, with plans to expand the program to deal with almost 90% of sewage on-site, at an estimated cost savings of $30,000 per year.
  • Install a solar panel array on the public works garage which has generated 15,333 kW of electricity, saved taxpayers $2,299 and has kept16,743 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.
  • Look into building a 500,000 gallon per year biodiesel fuel facility which could supply every public works truck, fire truck and school bus with a non-toxic, biodegradable fuel with 80% fewer emissions, while generating thousands of dollars in revenue each year.
  • Fight for student, youth, women's and human rights, establishing committees to improve landlord-tenant relations, a Youth Commission, anti-war actions, support of pro-choice events and performing the only same-sex marriages to ever occur in New York State.
  • Presented a budget to the village board that cuts taxes for the second year in a row - an 8% cut the first year, and a 15% cut the next.

Sounds pretty good to me. Too bad these polictics would probably never fly in Little Rhody. Maybe in a town or city first...

March 22 // I love unneccesary Quotes

March 4 // Future Home of Stanleys

So this will be the future home of Stanley burger, Richmond Street, next to Jake’s Bar and Grill. Let’s hope they serve the late night bar crowd, and a guy who wants a good burger can push through the schmoes to get one.

February 20 // Warren is Up in Arms

The Tourister complex is a great big mill along the water in Warren. If you have driven into Warren on County Road, you have passed it on the right. The complex has been bought by a developer who intends to severely change the character of the complex. The developers are not seeking Historic tax credits and intend to tear down six or seven of the original buildings. The complex is in a Historic Zone, but Warren has a voluntary Historic district so it is not mandatory that they comply. The density of the project is a very big issue. The Historic Commission, some members of the planning board and a large number of residents would like the town to hire an outside consultant to analyze the impact this will have on the town. For some reason, they won't get on board with this. There is a resident group, The Alliance to Develop Warren Wisely, that is actively trying to create a dialog between the Town manager, Town Council, and the Planning Board to try to determine whether or not this development is viable.

yourwarren.com: community website
WarrenFuture Blog: anonymous postings of varying helpfulness
Warren Times article
East Bay RI Article
Projo Article
The Meredith Management Site (developer)

January 23 // Lanschaftspark

Have you ever heard of Landschaftspark, in Germany? Maybe you have, but it was new to me. Apparently it was a massive industrial ruin that was rehabbed into a park/ art center/ retail place WITHOUT CHANGING THE ARCHITECTURE. One web site describes it like this: “...an industrial wasteland that the Germans transformed into a wildly popular park and tourist destination. Duisburg is in the Ruhr near Dusseldorf. It features acres of natural greenery. The old factory buildings house musical performances and art exhibits. Former ore silos have rock climbing walls. There’s an old blast furnace that’s been turned into an observation deck and more. At night, the old industrial structures are bathed in colored light.” I doubt New England could take advantage of this (our sites are smaller and land is more valuable in such a dense area) but maybe Pittsburgh could learn a thing or two?

July 18 // Port Fire Photos

Port Fire photos by Frank Mullin

July 16 // More Public Art

Hey, we need more art and urban signifiers. I remember this guy RIGO, who was big in the nineties in San Francisco. I guess because I am a designer and I like big, graphic murals, I really have always liked his stuff (he does more than just arrows, but I couldn't seem to find any more photos online). So imagine some of the large, daunting, pre-architectural-enlightenment towers that adorn our city scape – the complex at the beginning of Atwells, the Dominican Tower I believe, or that similar tower in Olneyville Square, with big urban signs on them. What could they be? What would be interesting? What would the residents want to see? Why dont we have these types of things already to add more character to our already interesting city?

Rigo, muralist from San Francisco

July 12 // So Maybe he can be right Sometimes

I usually dislike Mr Brussat’s articles and opinions in the Projo. He is always whining about some building that he hates because it is not Greek Revival or Corinthian or it is not made from virgin marble and carved by scantily clad Rennaisance-style David figures. He seems to hate anything that attempts to be modern, whatever that may be, and prefers ornamentation, no matter the context, over simplicity (I try to have a love for both). But a great writer and graphic designer, Chip Kidd, put it this way through one of his characters, and I must say, it is very well articulated and something that perhaps both Mr Brussat and I can agree upon:

Those buildings, the first ones that Gropius did, were… unlike anything before them… but more important, they spoke to a need for clarity and honest precision that no one had been able to achieve – or, before the twentieth century – ever thought to… To be in one for the first time – it must have truly sung to the soul and rewarded a spark of true faith in the promise of a new ideal… The problem is there's a difference between revolutionary minimalism and substituting archival stone with poured concrete that starts to crack before the first photo session is over. In short, the Bauhaus opened the floodgates to a worldwide generation of hacks who decided that details, structural quality, and solid craft were options they didn't need to opt for. – Chip Kidd, author of the Cheese Monkeys

April 13 // The Great Thing About RI

I love the way this little blue state is progressive. Before there are big wind farms on the Cape, RI managed to open its first wind turbine last month. The new turbine at Portsmouth Abbey School will supply 40% of the School's energy, has three 77 ft. blades atop a 164 ft. tapered tubular tower and can generate 660 kWs of electricity. It went online at 10am, March 31, 2006. Excellent. Thanks to Frank Mullin for the beautiful photos, shot on location for the Pheonix.

Photo b yFrank Mullin

Feb 28 // Fight to Save the Tax Credits

Rep. Constantino and Senate President Joseph Montalbano,

I am advocating to maintain the current level of funding for the Statewide Historic Tax Credit program. I run ArtInRuins.com, a website dedicated to the ever changing architectural landscape in Providence. i have been following the rebirth of this city for the past four years, and I know that the tax credits had much to do with these projects and their success at saving historically significant structures.

The Historic Tax Credit program is the single best economic development and neighborhood revitalization tool that Rhode Island has seen in decades. Since its adoption in 2002, no other economic development tool has resulted in more investment in as many individual communities, large and small, than RI’s Historic Preservation Tax Credit program. Tax credits are awarded only AFTER a project is complete. Therefore state and municipal governments receive significant benefits from the investment BEFORE any credits are awarded. And, we shouldn’t squander one of our few competitive advantages over our neighboring states. Massachusetts is now seriously considering an expansion of its own historic tax credit program.

Even though it may look like an expensive program, it is easy to measure its success. The program is generating $5.47 in economic output for every dollar of tax credit issued. As of July 1, 2005, the program has stimulated $859 million of private investment in 189 projects statewide, returning underutilized property to local tax rolls, revitalizing neighborhoods and providing much needed housing and office space.

Please, please reconsider and get your friends and collegues on the Finance Committee and in the senate to start to look at the real numbers for this project. Our historic structures are worth saving and if the tax credit program were removed, we might end up with less than stellar redevelopment projects in the state. If they were not in place a few years ago, the Mason building right next to the state house might still be abandoned, or worse, a Holiday Inn-style hotel might be built in its place, and our city would be less one more amazing structure of significance.

Jason Hogue
ArtInRuins.com
for info, please visit: www.growsmartri.com/tax.html

Jan 10 // RIPs in 2005

2005 was busy for wrecking companies. Buildings we have lost in 2005:

AAA Surgical
First Federal Bank
Hope Boiler building
JG Goffs
Laminated Metal
Ocean House
Phenix Mill
Providence National Bank
Travellers Aid/Grants Block
Trolley Barn

 
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