by Michael R. Allen
At yesterday’s meeting of the Preservation Board, the board unanimously voted to deny both Hyde Park demolition permits sought by Alderman Freeman Bosley (D-3rd) and the Land Reutilization Authority (LRA). The alderman and the city’s real estate wing wanted to level both of the frame houses at 3953 and 3961 Blair Avenue, which the LRA has owned since 2001. Staff from the Cultural Resources Office recommended approving demolition of the modest but mostly intact Italianate house at 3953 Blair while denying the permit for the rare Greek Revival house a few lots down. While the dire circumstances in Hyde Park may suggest such either-or piecemeal decision-making, what the neighborhood needs is comprehensive planning. Neither building is structurally unsound, and frame buildings of such size and age are becoming rare in the city no matter what architectural style. (Style is important in appraising the significance of individual buildings, although a trivial concern in terms of building successful neighborhoods where many factors must be balanced.) Steve Patterson and I each spoke in favor of preserving the two buildings.
The demolition permit for the house at 6452 Nashville in Dogtown also was denied. The owners paid almost $100,000 for the house only to apply for a demolition permit without a redevelopment plan. Huh? This is one of the city’s most stable neighborhoods, after all, making their application somewhat baffling.
Another good vote from the board was a 4-1 vote (with Mary Johnson dissenting) to defer consideration of plans for two model homes at 1922 and 1928 Whittier in The Ville. Frankly, the plans were terrible in terms of proportion, ornament, size and compatibility with context although Johnson saw redeeming qualities in their “French Victorian” style. Developer Sandra Nobles certainly did well in explaining the need to build on vacant lots in the Ville, but she could not answer questions about the design very well. More time and input from the staff at Cultural Resources should lead to better design.
One noteworthy presence of yesterday’s meeting was that Alderman Terry Kennedy (D-18th), who is a member of the board, was present. This was his first appearance at a board meeting in nearly one year.