Randomly Miscellaneous

Link thread:

  • That 10th Street post seemed to garner a lot of interest, and I was led to this link. That link eventually led me to these grand plans for East Washington Street, as well as this. The internet is cool.
  • A new Urban Times is out. The print version led me to this project at 22nd and Talbott St. How messed up is it that the project has to apply for a variance in order to build a structure that is similar in size to the one that was torn down? Also, the Fringe Festival will restore the structure for their new home. I’m very glad this festival has been so successful.
  • Dig-B proves that the Allen Plaza building is older than I had expected.

Comments 16

  • I used to live right there and have photos of the old building crumbling down at 22nd and Talbott.

    It appears the variance is not about the building size at all.

    It’s to change the zoning from a status set before the historic neighborhood designation to one that’s in keeping with the current historic status of the neighborhood. The zoning determines what type of business can go into the building.

    That’s a pretty routine variance request, and doesn’t necessarily come from the neighborhood, but can also come from the city’s historic planners, and sometimes from the federal historic designation plan.

    Sure, there was a building there previously, but that doesn’t mean the businesses that used to occupy it fit the neighborhood’s historic character, or was zoned properly prior to 1980 something, or whenever Herron-Morton Place went on the register of historic places.

  • That’s another thing to point out – when the old building at 22nd and Talbott was crumbling away, Herron-Morton Place, the Historic Landmarks foundation and the IHPC made heroic efforts to try to save it. HMP and Historic Landmarks tried to buy the property repeatedly to restore it, but the woman who owned it just wouldn’t budge until the building started falling and the city was forced to demo it for safety reasons.

    I really thing the neighborhood is acting in good faith with the property, and it sounds like the new builders are really working hard to be in keeping with the character of the neighborhood. HMP is probably thrilled with them.

    The variance is just getting about getting the zoning in line with the nationally recognized historic status of the neighborhood.

  • I understand, what I meant by my comment was to say that zoning laws can be pretty crazy here. Here you have a place where historically there was a two-story building that sat on 100% of the property, and in order to get another similar 2-story placed there they have to apply for less than the required off-street parking (which was not existent in the last property) and other variances. It just seems a bit too bureaucratic for me.

  • Axia Urban also plans a "live-work" building on the NW corner of 22nd & Talbott, as well as rehab of the tan brick building to the west of the corner lot. That corridor is developing nicely.
    The link is http://www.axiaurban.com and click on "Talbott Commons".

  • “Sure, there was a building there previously, but that doesn’t mean the businesses that used to occupy it fit the neighborhood’s historic character”

    That’s a very strange comment. If a business once operated in a building, is it not part of the history of the neighborhood? In my opinion, historic preservation is overly geared to the distant “nostalgic” past over the recent past.

  • We’re blushing.

  • Well, in 20 years, if (when) Walgreens wants to abandon or rebuild its 1990s-vintage, suburban style pharmacy at Washington and Ritter, a development that places a parking lot at what should be a prime corner in Irvington (and where as recently as 1986, per aerial photography, a traditional urban commercial building sat squarely on the corner), I wouldn’t want the existence of the current building (for what then would be about 40 years) to govern what can be done with the parcel next.

    I think what Steph means is that if there is, for instance, a building built in 1940 in a 1890s neighborhood that became a historic district in 1980, that buildings decades-long existence doesn’t necessary govern.

  • john m, that’s a dangerous “freeze-frame” argument that ignores growth and change over time.

    On College Avenue, historic buildings that were once drugstores and corner groceries are now restaurants, antique shops, offices, stained-glass shops, and the like. Some have converted front yards to front-yard parking. Those are all evolutionary changes that were thought necessary at the time to keep the area thriving. No one is preventing a property-owner from tearing out parking lots and putting in grass.

    Locking-in a snapshot of an historic neighborhood to a specific date (like a museum display) simply denies reality.

    Should we also ban automobiles from 1890’s neighborhoods? Should we unhook those neighborhoods from city water and city sewers and rip out the electric lines? Should we force owners to put the original coal furnaces back in? Should we turn Herron Morton Place back into the State Fairgrounds or Camp Morton? Should we turn it back into woodland? Where does it stop?

  • Well, Thundermutt, I’m not sure how you got from “doesn’t necessary govern” to banning electricity. I’m not talking about making our neighborhoods museums, but again, just because something stupid and out of character was allowed years ago doesn’t make it presumptively appropriate. Again, the Walgreens and adjacent strip mall at Washington and Ritter, both of which replaced street-facing commercial buildings are an example. Sure, I suppose in the late 1980s and early 1990s Irvington’s commercial district needed whatever it could get, but if current trends continue to, say, 2020 I certainly hope they wouldn’t be allowed to rebuild in the same way, with a huge parking lot as what should be, and was until the 1980s, a dense urban corner.

  • Reductio ad absurdum: reducing an argument to its absurd extreme to prove the opposite point.

    To say that a 1940-1970 use in an 1890 neighborhood “doesn’t necessarily govern” implies that it SHOULDN’T govern. And that’s a bad road to go down. It leads to a “theme-park” neighborhood.

    I’ll go out on a limb: NO neighborhood should look exactly as it did “back in the day”, whether the day is 1900, 1950, or 2000. Uses, mobility, and urban design concepts have all changed considerably in that time.

    Which is to say that a long-time use in a historic neighborhood may be perfectly appropriate even if it offends someone’s notion of “history” or even the historic preservation plan.

  • Well, let’s reduce your argument to its absurd extreme: mow down Lockerbie to build a Wal-Mart. I’m sure you don’t want that, just as I don’t want a “freeze frame” of any particular neighborhood. I never said anything of the sort and I don’t understand why it’s useful to pretend that I did. I’m not saying that no building should ever be torn down. I’m not suggesting that every building must be a replica of what stood there in 1890 or 1920. What I am suggesting is keeping urban neighborhoods urban. I don’t care how many decades they stand, the Walgreens and strip mall and Washington and Ritter will never be an appropriate use of that intersection.

  • John, market forces allowed them to be built…and market forces keep them in business, just like the plasma center across the street from them.

    Ignoring inconvenient facts won’t make them go away: for almost 60 years in this country we built car-friendly retail because that’s what the customers wanted and supported with their dollars. Especially in edgy neighborhoods (which Washington Street was in the 90’s), safety was translated into “visibility”.

    When forces change and cars become less important, the next “greedy developer” will likely build something on that parking lot out front and maintain some parking in between the rows of buildings.

    Development rules which don’t take into account both historic and current market influences are essentially “freeze-frame” strategies.

    I’m not from the vocal minority who believe that anyone (particularly developers or retail customers) should be “forced” into behavior change by urban planners. $5 gasoline will do the job.

    I believe in education, and that eventually a majority will see the wisdom of change and vote for it with their feet and dollars. If we can’t convince a majority over the long haul, we may need to consider the possibility that our views are wrong.

  • TMutt – I don’t know if that logic is being fair to John’s point. It seems to me as if you are offering a false dichotomy – choose either “freeze frame” or unrestricted development. We all know that there are other options. I think John is rightly pointing out that the urban environment must accommodate all likely users (civic rights), even those without cars. Nobody is restricting the way a building looks or is used, but the city should enforce a reasonable code regarding accessibility. The urban environment must be human scaled and approachable.

  • I forgot that the original reason I was commenting was about the historic building on the corner of Washington and Ritter. Please read this notice and this IHPC staff report. If you are concerned about the loss of historic buildings in town, now is your chance to make a difference. Sorry, hope you don’t feel like I’m hijacking the thread, but thought you might be interested.

  • Thanks Graeme, I was struggling to come up with topics this week, so this should do.

  • Graeme, what I oppose very vociferously is retroactively applying current standards of development. I am not trying to argue for unrestricted development and sprawl, nor for the failed inner city bulldozer-redevelopment schemes of the 60’s and 70’s.

    To say that it was “never” appropriate (and never would be appropriate) to build the Walgreens at Washington and Ritter is just not right. That development was justified and legal: it fit the need of the time, it met the zoning requirement of the time (the civic rights argument), and someone is operating a going business that generates jobs and taxes there. That we don’t like how it looks today is totally irrelevant.

    If one were serious about that argument, one would have to apply it to Irvington’s grocery stores as well (Marsh and Aldi)…and they are from different ends of the car-crazy era. I would never argue that those stores “never should have been built”.

    I’m apparently not making the argument well:

    Development of a city and creation of the urban fabric is a dynamic process, not a static one.

    Patterns and tastes change, and it is the diversity of the mix that makes a city an interesting place. There must be a place for “modern” development to replace “old” development in order to keep a city vital.

    Freezing a building or a block in time might be doable, but freezing a whole district against changes in use, development style and pattern is a bad idea. It’s what led to the decline of these “main street” and historic districts to begin with.

    Little as I like the design and siting of the Irvington Library or Walgreens or Marsh, each is clearly a creature of its era and has a place in the civic fabric of Irvington.

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