by Michael R. Allen
The graceful commercial building at 4477 Olive Street in the Central West End may be getting a reprieve. In April, the Preservation Board voted to defer for two months an application for demolition from the Youth Technology Education Center (YTEC) and the owner, Community Baptist Church. (See “Same Old Story?”, April 25.) At that meeting, representatives of the Central West End Association Planning and Development Committee testified against the application and agreed to meet with church pastor Willie Kent to see if a compromise was possible. The board was swayed by the spirit of negotiation, and unanimously voted to provide time for more talk.
As a bit of background, the section of Olive Street where 4477 Olive is located was excluded for the original boundaries of the Central West End Historic District due to ward boundaries. Subsequently, that end of the Central West End has been isolated — even physically, through barriers at Newstead and other places — from the neighborhood at large. Recent developments have led to a renewal and expansion of the historic district boundaries (which still cut across ward lines) to include the commercial district. Still, there is friction along ward lines between stakeholders in the different sections of the Central West End.
Most of that friction may come from lack of communication. With Kent, YTEC representatives and Central West End Association leaders at the table, a compromise that would preserve the building (most likely) or at least its front elevation is in the works. Things are going so well that YTEC sent the city’s Cultural Resources Office a memo asking that the matter be removed from the Preservation Board’s June agenda.
Due to procedural rules, however, the board had to take some action. At Monday’s meeting, the board voted unanimously to defer the matter indefinitely. Let’s hope the dialog between stakeholders is fruitful and that the lovely building is preserved while YTEC’s expansion occurs. When the demolition application surfaced, few would have predicted the matter would have been anything but another senseless case of parties talking past each other. Then again, common ground comes from common values — and all of these parties believe in the revitalization of Olive Street.