by Michael R. Allen
Photograph by author.
At last week’s meeting of the Preservation Board, the board considered the appeal of a Cultural Resources Office Staff denial of an application for demolition of a two-story commercial building downtown located at 2217-19 Olive Street. The board unanimously upheld the denial.
The owners of the building, Gary and Gail Andrews, have owned the building since 1977 but have failed to maintain the building according to city building codes. A section of the roof of the building collapsed several years ago, causing parapet damage, but the building is stable. The owners seek to to demolish the building, replacing it with a lawn and eventually a surface parking lot to serve a building that they own at 2206 Locust Street. (Read the CRO report here.)
The building is a contributing resource to a pending national historic district, the Olive and Locust Historic Business District. The nomination is awaiting final approval from the National Park Service. According to the nomination, prepared by Melinda Winchester:
The residential character of both Olive and Locust easily gave way to commercial activity, as many people converted homes into first floor shops with apartments above. An example of this is the building at 2217 Olive. Constructed as a home for Margaret Hilton in 1888, the first floor was converted into Walter C. Persons Photo Supplies Company in 1929 by William Duerback.
Examples of such conversion on Olive and Locust east of Jefferson are nearly extinct. The nomination does not identify a single other example of the converted residence within the historic district boundaries.
Once the building is listed on the National Register as part of the district, its rehabilitation will be eligible for state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits. This building and others on the block have not been eligible for the tax credits before. With the availability of the credit, these buildings should be attractive investments.
I concur with Cultural Resources staff that replacement of a historic downtown building with a grassy lot substitutes a high land use with an inappropriately low land use.