Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What good is vacant and deteriorating?

The fate of the San Luis boiled down to two choices: preserve a vacant, deterioriating building or demolish it for a new parking lot.

From a city wide standpoint, our approach to dealing with empty deteriorating buildings is an ongoing challenge. Neighbors do not like deteriorating buildings in their neighborhoods. Preservationists do not like demolition after neglect.

The challenge is how to get unmotivated property owners to dispose of or maintain properties that they do not want to operate or maintain? There are plenty of examples of buildings in this state. The NorthSide area has lots of them. The San Luis is one. The Avalon in South City is another.

Our choices should not be limited to vacant and deteriorating or demolition. Urbanists and preservationists should work with the community at large to develop stronger tools to ensure good building maintenance and operations.


Mark Groth said...

Very astute observation.

Matt M. said...

Vacant and deteriorating is reversible; demolition is not.

Advocates for preservation know this and feel it's a priority to allow the building to remain. In the case of the San Luis, there was an interested developer. The City should not make demolition so convenient for a developer. The message I have gotten from this controversy is that if I have enough power and influence, I can insist on demolition-by-neglect if not outright demolition and achieve the same result. This undermines ANY act of preservation.

Rick Bonasch said...

It is not reversible once the decay has reached the point of no return. The architect for the AD made that case about the San Luis.

It would be easy to make the same case for the Avalon. Watch McEagle offer similar justification on NorthSide holdings.

It takes years for neglect to reach the point of requiring demolition.

What happens in the meantime is critical. When the San Luis started its downhill slide, the building was slowly emptied out.

From the testimony of the applicant, the drain lines had never seen much maintenance or repair for the life of the structure.

All of us living in old buildings know these ongoing repairs and maintenance are essesntial.

The worst of the worst shows up for demolition - caved in walls due to lack of gutter maintenance, etc.

But its the basic systems of plumbing, electic, windows, heat/ac that start the cycle of decline. In many cases, the owners of buildings lack the financial resources to properly maintain their property.

Strict code enforecement, penalties for non-maintenance, occupancy inspections and renewed permits between tenancies, and court ordered maintenance are some alternatives to watching a building slowly rot.

Does the Avalon need a new roof? Would a judge so order? Is there money to make the temporary or more major repairs? Lien the property for the cost of repair followed by a sheriff sale to satisfy the judgement.

We need to look at more creative ways to protect neighborhoods and our building stock. While wielding more ammunition to enforce building maintenance, ideally there would be some help for owners of buildings finding themselves in a troubled property/maintenance nightmare situation.