Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Why do they refuse to reuse?

I'm surprised that they still haven't reached reached an agreement on what to do with the Grant School site. It would be more reassuring if in the future such decisions are made before anything is demolished. Elgin's old buildings, institutional and commercial included, are community assets. When the building's are gone, so are possibilities for reuse. One great example of reuse is the Community Crisis Center, housed in the beautiful Franklin School. That was a really wise way to preserve that landmark. The old Elgin High School, headquarters of U-46, is another good example. Reuse should be preferred to building new buildings, because it preserves a link to the past. I hope the Boys & Girls Club, which is raising $3M for a new facility, will adequately explore that option before building what will inevitably be something big and ugly.

Likewise, the Civic Center's library site should be reused rather than demolished. An art museum would be an object of community pride, and draw visitors from throughout the northwest suburbs. It's not a problem if we don't have a permanent collection; there are numerous museums in this country with no permanent collection. They host traveling exhibits, which is what an Elgin Art Museum should initially do.

I don't understand why at a time when housing inventories are at record high levels and home prices are dropping like loose socks, we're building more condominiums. The developer, Ryan Companies, is proposing a tower up to 10 stories tall. This would dwarf the Hemmens and wreck the integrity of the Civic Center. Are we really ready to give up the Civic Center?

If the building is demolished, there's still no guarantee this development will even be built, because it depends upon the housing cycle, which it seems may already be turning. The city needs to take a breather from demolition work. There are enough projects and developments to digest as it is.


Blogger Kovas Palubinskas said...

There is a very interesting book that relates to this subject. Though written in 1990, it is a well-researched and a thought provoking read. The book, Downtown, Inc.: How America Rebuilds Cities (1990, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press) by Bernard J. Frieden & Lynne B. Sagalyn, should be on the reading list of each person interested in, or responsible for, urban renewal.
A link for those interested in downtown development: http://www.downtowndevelopment.com.

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