by Michael R. Allen
Today, the Preservation Board not only voted against permitting the demolition of the St. Aloysius Gonzaga parish complex but also voted separately to deny the permit outright. As someone who has followed the demolition saga since September and as someone who presented testimony today, I am greatly encouraged by today’s meeting. Activism works! All of the efforts that Steve Patterson has put into the issue this week raised awareness and led people to send letters and testify. This church that seemed obscure and doomed in the fall received enough appreciative attention to convenience the Preservation Board to preserve it.
I note that no one from the neighborhood attended save demolition advocates Alderman Joe Vollmer (D-10th) and Father Vincent Bommarito of St. Ambrose Church. Did anyone there really know about this important decision?
The votes were interesting. The vote on a motion by Commissioner Luis Porello (second by Mary Johnson) to grant the demolition permit went this way:
Yea: Porello, Johnson
Nay: John Burse, Melanie Fathman, Anthony Robinson, Richard Callow
The vote on the motion to deny the permit, made by Richard Callow and seconded by John Burse went this way:
Yea: Callow, Burse, Fathman, Robinson, Johnson
Citizens interested in urban design and historic preservation can make a difference when we work together to challenge the status quo. In this case, we turned the situation around and got the Preservation Board to flat-out deny demolition. Although this is a preliminary review, and the developer can return to the Board for approval again, the vote shows that they will have to redesign their plans to save at least the church to make it past the Board. It’s likely that the developer will keep trying to get the plan exactly as it is, though, so we’ll see how long this victory lasts.