Warehouse coming down....A Rant

Well, it's happening, the Providence Fruit and Produce Warehouse is coming down. Shortly after the Judge gave the go ahead demolition began. How is it that it can take months to get a contractor going on even the smallest of projects yet there always seems to be a demolition crew ready to go at a moments notice. Weekends, holidays, midnight? No problem.

Demolition was forced to pause for a little bit when Eric Bright and Clay Rockefeller (and their dogs) climbed on to the roof. They were hoping to buy some time for a State appeal, but no appeal was filed. Nice try anyway, guys. Good to see someone from PPS get involved and get out there, seems like a while since they have been vocal on a demolition issue.

A lot of questions remain around this case. What did the developer agree to regarding preservation? How does a structure become so "unsound" so quickly? With a State budget in crisis and furloughs looming, why does a property get sold at a price below its value on the basis of a vague promise to redevelop?

Finally, why does it seem that the ProJo always comes down on the wrong side of an issue? In two pieces in today's opinion section they make it clear that they only care about pretty buildings that rich people once lived in. In the editorial they state "We shed no tears for the 79-year-old structure..." while at the same time bemoaning the fact that a parking lot now occupies the site of the former Police and Fire headquarters. Well, if you do nothing, don't be surprised when buildings are razed.

The column by David Brussart expands on this narrow-minded vision (expand on narrow-mindedness?). He states flatly: "Don't save the produce terminal". Basing his judgement on the evidence of a few renderings he dismisses out of hand any idea of adaptive reuse. He states "So if its exterior were no longer going to look as it did when it was still in use, then what good would it be as a historical artifact? Not much." I say, a lot. First, I reject the idea that it would not be possible to maintain the look of the building in reuse. The extreme proportions, the art deco elements cast into the exterior, the distinctive profile of the roof line, all of this could be kept quite recognizable. No one is looking to keep the building as a museum piece. Secondly, it has great value because it connects us to our past, it is real in a way that buildings like the Providence Place Mall will never be. This is our heritage, built for an honest hard working purpose, not a sham echo of something it is not. This is not a decorated box, which is almost surely what we will get in the place of the warehouse. This building has character which could be imparted onto a new enterprise. People could go there once again to do things and in so doing they could look around and understand what people once did, and perhaps feel some connection to those who came before.

Brussart also states that the building should come down because it isn't beautiful. Well, I disagree, and so do many others, judging by the comments on Urban Planet. Anyway, that is in the eye of the beholder for sure. As to his other points, I'll finish with a particularly idiotic passage where he says: "If you can’t demolish a building like the produce warehouse, what can you demolish? Yet, to construct new buildings without threatening more and more green space requires demolishing existing buildings. Better they be ugly ones." So this building has to come down to protect green space. Tree hugger.

David, do you want to demolish some buildings? I suggest almost anything on Route 2 from Cranston to South County would be a good start. Leave the properties on the National Register of Historic Places alone.