by Michael R. Allen
Complaints from some neighbors over bricks falling from the parapet wall led to Building Division action. No, not stabilization or a nuisance property suit, but “emergency” demolition, via an order issued on April 16 by Demolition Supervisor Sheila Livers.
The 1400 block of Sullivan Avenue has only seen one demolition since the start of the twentieth century. The block of Hebert Street to the north has seen none (although it has three McKee-owned buildings on it now), making it the only fully intact block in Old North. Still, this block of Sullivan came in closely behind, with a strong sense of historic character and committed residents.
Obviously, McKee cannot tear down the rest of the block. Mayor Francis Slay would be crazy to approve eminent domain use in Old North, where he has attended several house fundraisers for his campaigns. McKee’s interest in this property stems from its ability to help him qualify for acreage requirements under the Distressed Areas Land Assemblage Tax Credit as well as to have further political leverage in Old North. The building was inconsequential to his plan — but vital to the sense of place of those who look out of their windows and now see a pile of brick bats.
Would it have hurt McKee to have put a new roof on the building and done some brick work? Those expenses would have qualified as maintenance costs under the same tax credit that covers demolition. Promises to do better with maintenance are meaningless in the face of demolition by neglect.
For residents of Old North, amid a $35 million rehabilitation project that will reopen 14th street and rebuild 28 buildings, this is a small blow. We’re on a roll. Still, that makes this loss so much more senseless.