To Demolish or not to Demolish…That remains the question
A public meeting was held in Garland’s Central Library on Thursday, February 23rd. As Yogi Berra would say, it was “deja vu all over again”. There were about 70 folks in attendance, mostly senior citizens. They were greeted by Anita Goebel, Councilwoman for District 2, followed by a short talk by Mayor Douglas Athas. We also heard from the Executive Director of Parks and Recreation and our new Assistant City Manager.
We were given 2 sheets of paper, 1 was an explanation of the purpose for the meeting. The other was a questionnaire asking us to chose one of two plans for the redesign of the square. These rendering were not as detailed or as impressive as those presented in the past.
We had discussed the meeting in advance with several of those in attendance, and they were waiting their turns to speak on the subject of redesigning the downtown square. Of course, they had spoken out several times in the past at similar meetings. Cleo Holden, president of Preservation Garland, and members of that organization have spoken out passionately in favor of preserving that building due to its historic significance. The building was originally built near the turn of the century as a row of several individual stores. In the 1960’s they were slipcovered as a single building. That is the plastered over facade that we see standing in the square today. For the past decade we have attended numerous public meetings regarding the redesign of the square. However, the City of Garland did not own the building in the square until it was purchased from the Garland Civic Theatre. That may be a game changer, as the City now has complete control of the property. We were told, on good authority, that half a million of taxpayer dollars have already been spent on architectural renderings and proposals. As far preservation is concerned, there is nothing to be learned about history from the 1960’s style building that now stands, vacant and decaying, in the center of the square. A recent survey revealed foundation problems, the need for a new roof, removal of asbestos and other renovations would be required before the building would be ready for commercial use.
The question becomes one of whether or not more taxpayer dollars should be spent to renovate the building, or demolish it and enlarge the area for public use. Apparently that was what this meeting was really all about. There was most certainly a handful of people who left the meeting feeling deprived of an opportunity to plead for the preservation of that building.
Business owners surrounding the square favor the demolition of the building to enlarge the area in the square for public events. That would eliminate the need to block off traffic on Main, State, Sixth and Fifth streets. The Baker Family, who have owned the property now housing Baker’s Main Street Furniture for more than 80 years, see no point in preserving the building. John Baker who has attended the meetings, organized by Robert Smith, leading up to the application for the area to be included on the National Registry of Historic Places, emphasize that that designation would not be impacted by the demolition of the building. He also stated that he would like to see quality commercial development on the far east side of the square. The buildings in the square were originally known as the Crossman Block. New development should conform to architectural design of that era, he asserted.
To demolish or not to demolish the white elephant sitting in the middle square remains the multi million dollar question. The questionnaires were handed in and the responses to the questions were tallied. The individuals who attended that public meeting, including business owners from the area, opted to demolish the building at the overwhelming rate of 5 to 1. The redesign of the square is a key element in the revitalization of the downtown area.