Monday, February 15, 2010

Historic preservation efforts need teeth

Posted By on Mon, Feb 15, 2010 at 4:03 PM

Anyone who can remember the Charlotte Hotel, the Coffee Cup, the Masonic Temple on Tryon, or the Independence Building on the Square can tell you how little respect this city has shown for its architectural history. Now, another historic landmark, the Dilworth Fire Station No. 2 on South Boulevard (next to Pepto Towers), might join the long list of historic Charlotte structures destined for the wrecking ball.

Marcel Starks, the building’s owner, says he’s going to tear down the building and sell the lot to a developer. Starks paid, or rather overpaid, $1.03 million for the building four years ago, and planned to open a luxury car club, an idea that never bore fruit. The Historic Landmarks Commission recently offered Starks $950,000 for the building, but Starks rejected that offer. Why Starks thinks he can get over a million bucks for a 7500-square-feet property without a historic property on it is anybody’s guess. Real estate prices are down since Starks bought the fire station, so the HLC’s offer seems reasonable, if not even generous. A lot that small in that location would probably only work for a fast-food joint, and it’s doubtful even Mickey D’s would pay that kind of money for a mere lot.

The owner says he wants the HLC to make him a better offer, or the 1909 fire station is, well, history. The central problem, as I see it — other than Starks’ poor business judgment — is that our local historic preservation efforts lack real teeth. In some cities, Starks would have been bound by preservation ordinances to save the building at any cost. Since we don’t have that kind of arrangement, we’ve left the classic old fire station at risk. Frankly, in this economy, Starks should take the HLC money and consider himself lucky to get it.

Check out this site to see some of the great old buildings that were destroyed to make our shiny, happy Uptown. You may find it unbelievable that the city once had such classic architecture in abundance.

The Egyptian Revival style Masonic Temple, demolished in 1987
  • Charlotte Hotel, demolished in 1988

[caption id="attachment_18868" align="alignnone" width="395" caption="The Egyptian Revival style Masonic Temple, demolished in 1987"]

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