Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Is it really preservation? Let's call Midtown plan what it really is.

Our Director of Preservation Services, Katie Comeau, attended last week's press event where plans to proceed with the Midtown Plaza project were announced. We were excited to learn the tower structure will be re-purposed – that's a great 'green' strategy.

What struck us, however, was the variance in understanding of what constitutes the language of preservation and reuse, and the retention of historic fabric.

This proposal, in fact, still involves demolishing the atrium and clearing nearly all of a site deemed eligible for the National Register based on "exceptional significance," and will totally alter what is being saved (i.e. the tower will be brought down to the structural steel – retaining none of its historic fabric). Clearly the mall, as we know it is not being "renovated."

All of us, probably along with the entire western New York region, hope this project turns out to be great for the revitalization of the city, yet we remain conflicted when we know that we are losing some unique opportunities to redevelop the atrium in particular. And, as educators, we want to make sure that we all speak the same language and should not blur our understanding of what constitutes 'preservation.' Preservation of this site would mean keeping the structural bones of the complex of buildings and modifying them through a restoration or adaptive reuse that respects its historic integrity.

Let's call this exciting new project what it is – new construction that incorporates structural elements from a previous construction.

Posted by Joanne Arany, executive director


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