|In Indianapolis, Historic facades were retained as part of the Circle Center Mall development|
The reason I say this is that we have to be looking more than a few years out now. We must stop thinking short term. Over the last few years I think we have 'looked the other way' thinking that ANY development was better than no development at all.. The time has clearly come to raise our standard and expectations of what type of development is appropriate in OTR. If we don't, OTR will become "teardown suburbia-in-a-city", and we need to get ahead of the game now, so we are not fighting constant battles in the future.
European cities have long dealt with the issue of Facade retention. With cities with 4-500 year old buildings it's inevitable that buildings literally want to fall down. The value of the land in terms of redevelopment is great and the need to new uses is there as well. Historic European cities have long maintained the preservation of historic structure but when a structure must come down as part of new development , the historic facade must generally be maintained as part of redevelopment.
This may sound like an strange idea but it has been used here in the United States as well. Indianapolis for example, as part of the multi block Circle Center Mall development Preservationists fought for the retention of Historic building facades as part of that redevelopment. Some facades were literally dismantled, numbered and reinstalled or carefully left in place held up by steel structure and the new construction built behind them. And yes, I was one of those "crazy preservationists" saying we had to save these facades. It wasn't an easy battle and there was a lot of pushback, but when you look today at Circle Center Mall is is "integrated" well into the street scape and many historic buildings were utilized and kept as part of that development. The feel and massing of a urban historic streetscape was largely maintained and the new structures at street level compliment the Historic ones.
Even the little cities do this. The city of St Joseph Mo. saved a historic 4 story cast iron building facade and a new building was built behind it, preserving a block long facade of continuous similar architecture
Again, I believe that demolition should be an absolute last resort. we certainly have plenty of vacant lots in OTR where buildings could be moved to. I also understand thats not always possible due to severe structural deterioration. But I firmly believe going forward Demolition is an absolute last resort!
And that brings us to the proposed Mercer Commons project proposed by 3CDC. Now before everyone jumps on me for daring to question anything 3CDC does, credit where credit is due, I appreciate the 200 million dollar investment in OTR by 3CDC, HOWEVER, I do not think they should get a 'free pass' with this particular project. I think we should expect more.
|Fine in suburbia, but not in a historic OTR|
Architecturally this part of the proposed development is a train wreck. It looks like a tacky 70's era motel dropped in a historic streetscape. It might work well in suburbia but it doesn't belong in OTR. The scale is wrong. There is no contextual blend with other buildings on the street. We need something with a more "timeless feel". This building would be quickly outdated. As someone who gets calls on a routine basis from people in cities like Indy which is "overbuilt' with HGTV condos you can't give away and being asked to install architectural detail in these spaces, Crown molding walls etc. This building is a modern day granite countertop, and people have moved on to quartz and its passe in other cities. As OTR continues its turnaround , the historic structures will become more valued and desired. Rather than in 20 years figuring out how we "fix this" with a new more appropriate facade, 3CDC needs to give OTR more credit for its history and build something that compliments it rather than some HGTV inspired whiz bang, 20 somethings-will-buy-it structure that no one will want down the road as OTR becomes more affluent and stable and expectations are much higher. Don't get me wrong I like contemporary architecture as long as its good contemporary architecture. This look like suburban run of the mill design student work. 3CDC, you can do Better! Most importantly we do not need to tear down any historic buildings as part of this development
If we look at the "big picture" of OTR ten years from now, when hopefully it is major source of heritage tourism and people come here from all over the country, does this project 'contribute' to a historic OTR To my eye it doesn't. More importantly this project uses an inordinate amount of space for parking. We have to think more of underground as most cities are now. There is no reason why we can't build something that 'looks more historic, preserves existing buildings or at least their facades and doesn't sell the historic potential of OTR short
|This is what new construction in a historic OTR|