by Michael R. Allen
The sad end of the McEagle-owned four-family flats at 2621 Sullivan Avenue in JeffVanderLou is complete. Brick thieves have taken down the sturdy historic building, leaving a pile of rubble. Last year, a small fire struck the building (see “Fire Strikes House in JeffVanderLou”, October 30, 2008). The photograph above commemorates an only slightly better day for the building.
Mark this as yet another historic building to be lost under the ownership of McEagle and its subsidiaries. Two years ago, this building was occupied and had minimal code citations. Then, it went vacant and soon after was visited by fire. The owner, Sheridan Place LLC, did little to address the fire. According to city records, the Building Division had to board up the building in the wake of the fire and then sent notice to the owner.
Now, the building is gone. Would this building have contributed to a new historic district? Could it have been rehabilitated using state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits? (McEagle listed a whopping $149.7 million in historic tax credits as revenue on its first-draft tax increment financing application.) Was this one of planner Mark Johnson’s “legacy properties” identified for preservation? We’ll never know, because McEagle has not divulged any of its preservation plans. We do know that this building sits in one of the projected “employment centers,” so it could very well have been doomed anyway. Yet that’s just a guess.
Citizens and their elected representatives contemplating a redevelopment agreement for McEagle’s NorthSide project need facts that demonstrate commitment on the part of the developer to back up all of its promises about historic preservation. Meanwhile, the facts that speak loudest about commitment to saving historic buildings don’t match the developer’s promises.
Ravaged brick buildings, constant fires, collapsing walls, missing boards and dozens of sound historic buildings now forever lost seem like the antithesis of the carefully-planned preservation of “legacy” buildings described by McEagle’s executives and NorthSide master plan author Johnson (of Civitas, Inc.). Certainly, this slipshod management belies Johnson’s immense professional reputation and commitment to progressive, community-oriented planning ideals. It’s hard for seasoned preservationists to believe that McEagle really wants to save historic buildings in the project area — but that is what the company and its planner keep saying they want to do.