Preservation By Building
November 3, 2009 2:18 PM
There are people I respect who are arguing that the proposed Edgewater Hotel project will ruin efforts at historic preservation on Mansion Hill. While I respect them and what they've done over the years in that regard, I can't agree with their arguments in this case. As a matter of fact, I think the Edgewater will bolster historic preservation, not detract from it.
Let's start by facing the fact that what we've tried for the last three decades just hasn't worked very well. If the goal up on Mansion Hill was to spark a renaissance in the rehabilitation of old buildings by owner occupants, well it just hasn't happened much.
Here's why I think the Edgewater project will help.
First, the developer will restore the original Art Deco Edgewater. That's a great way to preserve a part of the Edgewater that's actually worth preserving.
Second, the plan includes new owner-occupied units in the new portion of the project.
Third, the proposal provides usable (actually spectacular) public open space in the neighborhood. Mansion Hill doesn't have much of that right now, but wouldn't it be great to be able to walk over to the new Edgewater rooftop and enjoy the view or walk down the proposed grand staircase and get right down to the water? The new Edgewater would be an amenity that would be a selling point for the neighborhood.
Fourth, this $90 million reinvestment would produce an extraordinary amount of tax increment, which could be available for all kinds of neighborhood improvement projects like streets, sidewalks, lighting and landscaping. It might even be available for the city's Small Cap TIF program, which helps owner occupants convert income properties back to single family residences.
No existing historic buildings would be touched by this project. The 1940s original building would be preserved, and the awful 1970s addition would be dramatically improved. And the improvements made possible by the new addition would actually bolster historic preservation on the Hill.