Not all old buildings are worth preserving

Opinion

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A letter to the trustees:

I have had conversations with several trustees recently who oppose removing the Colt from the plan for the redevelopment of the downtown superblock. They note that the Landmarks Preservation Council was not sure whether it would qualify for certain tax credits. I would strongly recommend that they re-read the LPCI's letter to the trustees. It's true that they don't think the Colt would qualify for preservation tax credits, but that's certainly not the basis of their support for tearing it down.

"It became clear through the process that there was a need to bring traffic onto Westgate from Lake Street in order to revitalize Westgate. Most of the Westgate buildings have more architectural integrity than the Colt building.

"It is not simply the question of the economic cost of rehabilitation of the Colt building, but also the opportunity cost of losing a connection that can save the best Westgate buildings for the future. We could urge preservation of the Colt building, but then we would be fighting for each of the Westgate buildings again in the future as they continued to languish. LPCI felt that the loss of the Colt was offset by the revitalization and landmarking of the other buildings." (Source: E-mail from Michael Vincent, LPCI member of Citizen Steering Committee to the Board of Trustees, Oct. 21)

The consultants hired by the village, Crandall Arambula, said the numbers do not work to redevelop the Colt. The consultants to the Steering Committee said the numbers for re-development do not work. The developers who have looked at the building have said the numbers do not work. The LPCI recommends removing the building no matter what the numbers are because the plan cannot achieve its goals if you gut the one piece that makes it all work?#34;removing the Colt. Why do we spend our tax money on consultants if we do not listen to them?

The Colt building is a arcade building. Arcade is another word for pedestrian mall. History has shown that they do not work. Look at Marion and Lake streets in the 1970s. That is why the building has been in a state of decay for 50 years. Not all old buildings are worthy of preservation. My wife and I have restored Frank Lloyd Wright's Heurtley House. We are the poster children for preservation in Illinois, so I (like the LPCI) understand this subject. Why build the new garage if it is hard to get to? Marion and Westgate streets, even opened, were never meant to handle that type of traffic. Why restore Westgate if you cannot easily see the buildings?

The Steering Committee has done a wonderful thing. They have brought together the preservationists, the DTOP businesses, and the developers. We all benefit from their hard work. If you gut their plan for the Colt building, you doom it to failure. Let's not continue to send our new businesses and citizens to Forest Park to dine and shop. That is what you will be doing by saving the Colt.

Lastly I want to ask you and the other trustees my most important question: Do you plan to explain to the general public, in detail, the economics of preserving the Colt building as opposed to implementing the plan in its consensus form from the Steering Committee? I believe that is the minimum the taxpayers of Oak Park deserve before our tax money is spent to buy the Colt.

Ed Baehrend
Oak Park

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