Friday, June 3, 2011

Free Historic walking tour of South Fairmount Saturday June 11th

On Tuesday evening June 14th MSD is presenting their plan at the South Fairmount Community Council meeting held at Orion Academy at 7:30.

In an effort to better educate the public about the MSD proposal, which would wipe out an entire historic Business/residential district, Knox Hill Neighborhood Association is sponsoring a free Historic Walking Tour which will take people around the central core district of South Fairmount and explore one of the most intact collection of historic buildings in the city.

Preservationist believe demolition of intact Historic structures is not "green" and wastes taxpayer dollars
The tour will assemble on the street in front of the Orion Academy 1798 Queen City at 9:30 AM for a 1-1/2  hour exploration of the many historic structures in the neighborhood. The area has a significant collection of Victorian and late Victorian buildings which are some of the finest in the city. Tour goers will also review the Vitt and Stermer building, a rare ART DECO building that is one of a kind. Many of the buildings are listed on the city historic building inventory report as potentially eligible historic structures

KHNA feel that by actually exploring the architecture people will learn what could well be lost here. In fact this project would essentially destroy the remaining part of "old town Fairmont" and be the largest loss of historic architectural fabric this city has seen since the highway construction or the loss of the Kenyan-Barr Neighborhood in the 1960's. As one preservationist has described the MSD proposal    "This is the same old Urban renewal scheme wrapped in "green packaging".

In fact many have questioned the validity of extensive demolition of existing structures when it is well known that the restoration of historic structures creates less carbon footprint and does not decimate the tax base in the process by eliminating a large tract of property from the county tax roles..

Preservationists propose for the daylighting of Lick Run Beginning at Grand with the historic areas staying intact and being redevleoped as a new historic district and then the creation of a smaller green space park across from the old hospital. The proposal called "QC West" would leverage the restoration of the business and residential district under a proven "Main Street" model program from the National Trust to restore a viable "historic village" with a marketing plan towards small retailers like antiques dealers, Art galleries and boutiques with local eateries. They view Fairmounts "QC WEST" rebranding as taking the Queen City Avenue corridor and returning it to a viable walkable business district utilizing the daylighted Lick Run Creek Green space East of Grand as a community asset. The establishment of a national registry District here would create a "triad" of  national historic districts on the west side with Sedamsville and Knox Hill both working on National registry nominations.

Their belief is that a viable historic business/residential district has a higher rate of success than primarily residential facing a green space.As one Knox hill Board member puts it, "What builder in this economy is going to take financial risks to build new construction costing 200-300 thousand in that area which will have no shopping amenities? By utilizing those historic business building we already have this project has a greater chance of success and lets face it, the city has done an awful job with plans they have come up with in the past that 'suppose' a lot of things will happen that unfortunately don't. They see a big pot of Federal money and come up with a half baked plan that makes big promises but falls short due to lack of details."

The area is home to an outstanding  collection of French Second Empire  townhomes
 The QC West plan may also allow the city to jump start this project as with retention of those buildings the costs of demolition, estimated in the millions, doesn't take place. MSD already holds over 40 buildings in the area so effective planning can occur and existing busineses who want to stay, perhaps can avoiding a protractive eminent domain lawsuits and litigation. With MSD's plan preservationist expect long drawn SECTION 106 review process with state and federal appeals and perhaps legal battles to force MSD to relocate historic building which would be time consuming and add costs to the project

The QC West plan uses a 'common sense' approach and believes their plan has a greater potential for sucess that the "grab the bulldozer approach" typically used by the city. For less than the cost of demolition the exteriors of the buildings can be painted  and restored and then resold with protective covenants on the outside leaving a new owner or developer to complete the interior on an agreed to time frame. The plan proposes the raising of the city tax abatement level for restoration/rehab to 500K an an incentive to encourage redevelopment with special emphasis on LEED certified retrofits.. In order to encourage more home ownership and taking on a restoration,  the plan proposes Zero Permit fees as an incentive. Parking areas must be permeable surfaces and rain water retention and solar use will be encouraged.

For more information about the Walking Tour contact Paul Willham at  In the event of inclement weather on Saturday the tour will take place Sunday the 12th.

1 comment:

Marilyn said...

Good idea, Paul. If I lived closer I would attend. It was a grass-roots group that saved Heritage Hill in Grand Rapids from being bulldozed over 30 years ago--one of the first Historic Districts in the nation.