by Michael R. Allen
This week, the city said farewell to the Midtown commercial building at 3714 Olive Street just west of Spring Avenue. Sitting behind the massive Coronado Hotel on a block nearly devoid of historic buildings, the two-story building has been a fairly anonymous part of the urban fabric for most of its years. However, as its context diminished, the building became a more important part of potential development of small businesses in Grand Center. The arts district had become a plane of parking space and institutional users, with nary a spot for a coffee or cocktail aside from a few places on Grand Avenue.
The loss of this building makes the dichotomy between Grand Center’s super-scale and its cultural pretensions (“art” and “life” of the sort one finds on, say, Cherokee Street require storefronts) even more stark. Yet the bigger issue is that the building’s demolition never received review by the Cultural Resources Office. This block is outside of the Midtown Historic District, and located in the 19th Ward. the 19th Ward does not have demolition review aside from historic districts and official landmarks.
Now the south side of the 3700-3800 block of Olive Street is down to just four historic buildi ngs, including the National Register-listed William Cuthbert Jones House at 3724 Olive Street and the Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge-designed Wolfner Memorial Library for the Blind (originally Southwestern Bell’s Lindell Exchange) at 3842-44 Olive Street. Two buildings with storefront additions, including one at 3808 Olive Street, also remain. The north side of the street has also been a mess, especially after the demolition of the Central Apartments in 2007.
The alien landscape of this block is the definite result of a once-curable lack of preservation planning. Hence, demolition of 3714 Olive Street makes a strange sort of sense.