Trust News

Tiger Stadium Protesters Seek “More Vision and Less Demolition”

Posted on: June 4th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 3 Comments

 

Written by Royce Yeater

June 3, 2009 protest at Tiger Stadium. (Photo by Marvin Shaouni)

Save Tiger Stadium! (Photo by Marvin Shaouni)

Refrains of “Take me out to the Ball Game” interspersed with chants of “Save Tiger Stadium” rose in the late night air at the corner of Trumbull and Michigan in Detroit last night. About 100 protesters gathered before midnight outside what remains of the famous but long-abandoned historic baseball park. They carried neon-colored handmade posters with the “Save Tiger Stadium” message, along with signs reading “More Vision and Less Demolition” and “This Place Matters.”

The protest was in response to the appearance on the site earlier in the day of demolition equipment poised to do its work. It was apparently ordered into that position by the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC) after they determined that the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy had failed to meet a $15 million dollar target for fundraising toward their plan to preserve the field itself and the most historic portion of the Stadium (once known as Navin Field) as a venue for youth baseball surrounded by office space.

For nearly 20 years, Tiger Stadium has been the focus of  local and nationwide efforts to preserve it as an icon of baseball, after rumors of intentions to build a new stadium surfaced. We listed Tiger Stadium on our annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 1991. After the Tigers relocated to Comerica Park in 1999, the city agreed to continue to maintain the stadium until an appropriate adaptive use of the stadium, or a viable new use for the site, could be identified.

The remaining portion of Tiger Stadium. (Photo by Marvin Shaouni)

The remaining portion of Tiger Stadium. (Photo by Marvin Shaouni)

Neither of those things happened, in spite of extensive efforts by preservationists to find an adaptive use, and by the city’s economic development staff to find another productive use of the site. In 2008, with funds for maintenance ever-tightening and the Corktown Neighborhood in which the stadium sits asking for some resolution, a compromise was established in a Memorandum of Agreement between the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (a quasi-governmental economic development agency) and the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy (a non-profit advocacy and development group organized to save and reuse the stadium). The agreement accepted demolition of the less historic parts of the stadium seating and that work ensued in July, 2008, demolishing all but the infield corner of the stadium seating. The MOA documented an agreement to preserve that element as retail, hospitality, office and community space, and preserve the playing field itself and the lower deck seating as a venue for youth baseball, all at a cost estimated to be about $27M.

June 3, 2009 protest at Tiger Stadium. (Photo by Marvin Shaouni)

June 3, 2009 protest at Tiger Stadium. (Photo by Marvin Shaouni)

The Conservancy has made great progress, even in these economic times. They have secured significant dollars in private contributions from foundations and individuals and, with the help of Senator Carl Levin, had been granted $3.8M in federal funding to advance the plan. They have confirmed through the State Historic Preservation Office the eligibility of the remaining stadium elements for as much as $18M in state and federal historic tax credits. While they had indeed failed to meet a specific fundraising target by March 1, they were meeting fundraising goals to cover the cost of continued maintenance and security and they felt they were demonstrating sufficient progress to sustain their efforts.

When the DEGC suddenly moved into position to demolish the remaining and most historic parts of the stadium, the Conservancy was shocked -- and issued a statement saying so, stressing the economic benefits of their plan to a city struggling in the face of the current recession and the melt down of the automotive industry.

June 3, 2009 protest at Tiger Stadium. (Photo by Marvin Shaouni)

More vision, Less demolition. (Photo by Marvin Shaouni)

In contrast, the DEGC and the city have no alternative plan for the site with any real viability, and certainly no developer or use that is at all shovel-ready. So why the sudden rush to spend significant money to tear it all down? Complete demolition at this time will result only in another empty parcel in a city filled with vacant land awaiting new construction.

We believe the city should extend deadlines for the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy and encourage continued progress toward a significant redevelopment of an iconic historic resource that will cost the taxpayers of Detroit little and provide a much needed shot in the arm the cash-strapped city desperately needs in these trying times.

But the city is currently saying no to that logic and demolition could begin next week. The DEGC has indicated only that demolition will begin within the next two weeks. Ironically, demolition is being held up by a film crew shooting a feature length movie in which the stadium will stand in for Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, itself demolished in 1995.

Please check back tomorrow (Friday, June 5, 2009) to learn how to make your voice heard in the fight to save Tiger Stadium.

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Royce A. Yeater, AIA, is the director of the Midwest office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

 

By a vote of 94 to 2, the Louisiana House on Wednesday passed House Bill 780, which would require LSU to have the financing plan for its proposed new hospital approved by the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget before it could purchase or seize property on the proposed Lower Mid-City site.

We spent two days in Baton Rouge again talking to lawmakers. On Tuesday, we managed to speak to about one-fifth of the 105-member body, and our tallies showed a decided lean toward passing what essentially is a simple bill calling for good fiscal practices.

With the exception of Representative Juan Lafonta, the New Orleans legislators didn’t seem strongly inclined to pass the bill when we spoke to them—remaining non-committal, vague in their support, or somewhat hostile to it. Nevertheless, seven of the eleven New Orleans legislators voted for the bill, with three absent, and one voting no. The no vote from New Orleans was from Rep. Karen Carter Peterson, Speaker Pro Tem of the House, who presided over the vote. The Charity Hospital building is in her district.

Rep. Lafonta rose to speak to his colleagues before the vote, saying without this bill there were no checks and balances on LSU. He talked about the possible demolition of a neighborhood and referred to the billboard on the interstate approach to Baton Rouge which states “Want to save $283 million? Reopen Charity Hospital.” The billboard is the work of theFoundation for Historical Louisiana (FHL).

This was another great effort in the beautiful halls of the Art Deco State Capital which included myself; Sandra Stokes of FHL; Mickey Weiser, owner of Weiser Security located in Lower Mid-City on the proposed LSU site; Brad Ott of the Committee to Re-Open Charity Hospital; Michelle Kimball of the Preservation Resource Center; Jack Davis, NTHP trustee; and Jonah Evans of SaveCharityHospital.com.

We appreciate everyone’s support of this latest effort, another chapter in the unfolding drama that could decide the fate of an ill-conceived plan for medical facilities in New Orleans.

The bill moves to the Senate next week, where it first needs to pass out of committee.

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

 

This past Thursday evening, seven members of the New Orleans City Planning Commission--for the first time before this body in a public setting--heard about the plans for the state and VA hospitals in New Orleans. The commission also got an earful of opposition from the public about those plans, and heard--again, for the first time as a body--that there could be an alternative to those plans, an alternative based on the return of Charity Hospital as a state-of-the-art 21st century anchor of the medical district in New Orleans' Central Business District.

I was one of scores of citizens who testified during the nearly four-and-a-half hour meeting after extended presentations by the city's out-going director of recovery, Ed Blakely; the state; and RMJM Hillier. Dr. Blakely made a point of saying the plans were those of the state and the VA, not the city. The state's representative argued that Charity was in danger of losing its accreditation before Katrina, and therefore no longer suitable for use as a hospital. That argument is immaterial. The RMJM Hillier proposal for the rebuilding of Charity is based on gutting of the entire building to its limestone exterior and floor plates. This structural skeleton would then support entirely new systems inside. None of the existing interior walls or systems would be retained.

The citizen comment was strictly limited to three minutes. Outbursts and spontaneous applause from the audience were promptly tamped down by an ever-vigilant commissioner. A number of physicians spoke in favor of the rebuilding of Charity and the dire need for medical care of all kinds in New Orleans. In my comments, I observed that the city seemed to want it both ways--saying it has no role when its planning department is asked to take leadership; and on the other hand, confecting agreements with the state and VA that very much demonstrate its intimate involvement with these controversial plans.

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South Asians: Stewards of America's Roadside Heritage

Posted on: May 19th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

The neon sign at the El Don Motel, Albuquerque, NM, during the day.

The neon sign at the El Don Motel, Albuquerque, NM, during the day.

Written by Anne Dodge

Since April of 2008, I have been working on a project called “66 Motels”, a collection of photos and interviews that document the independently owned, historic motels of Route 66 and their owners. I was drawn into this project after studying preservation planning along Route 66 for my master’s thesis. In my research, I discovered that the towns and cities along Route 66 -- and the Route 66 property owners themselves -- view the road and its resources in very different ways, and that preservation can take unexpected turns when what’s being preserved is an idea as well as a concrete series of buildings or places.

From a preservationist’s point of view, the corridor’s most authentic places –- the buildings that spoke most eloquently of the road’s history -– are the motels. Architectural styles range from the beloved wigwam motels of the southwest to the “Giraffe stone” motor courts of the Missouri Ozarks. By their use, siting, and architecture, the motels themselves tell the story of Route 66 –- how for decades, the road served as a major transportation corridor for migrant workers, recreational travelers, families, salesmen, immigrants, and anyone who planned to motor west. Once I began interviewing motel owners, I learned more about the complexities of running and maintaining an older, smaller motel and the forces at work against the preservation of these properties. Most interestingly, I found that more than 30% of the independent motel owners along Route 66 were new Americans, people who had come to the U.S. from India, east Africa, Europe, and other parts of the U.S. to own and manage these businesses.

Rest Haven Court, Springfield MO sign by night.

Rest Haven Court, Springfield MO sign by night.

In addition to documenting the diverse group of owners and properties along Route 66, this project also looks at the power of signage and the history and contemporary practice of labeling a property as "American Owned." I began this research thinking that "American Owned" was a label that was used exclusively by white motel owners to promote their properties to customers who were disinclined to rent a room at an Indian American owned motel. This is, without a doubt, the origin of the "American Owned" sign, and some motel owners today defend this language and signage as a legitimate component of their advertising strategy. But I've learned, thanks to several generous interviewees, that this type of signage is often an accident of history, something that came with a property when purchased, or something that Indian American owners themselves use to make a statement about themselves and their properties.

Nina at the Americana Motel, Tucumcari, NM

Nina at the Americana Motel, Tucumcari, NM.

This project has several goals; one is to start a dialog about the role of Asian Americans and other motel owners in the preservation and development of the emerging Route 66 heritage corridor. This debate is part of a broader conversation about racial and cultural diversity in America’s preservation movement, and ways in which the work of public historians, preservationists, and other interpreters of the past can better represent the narratives of new Americans. In the meantime, the motels tell their own stories, and their new custodians add yet another layer of history to the many layers already evident along the highway. Behind every historic Route 66 motel is a person and a history that enriches the architectural and cultural experience of the whole corridor. And that's the story that I hope the 66 Motels project will tell to others.

Anne Dodge is a writer, researcher, and media producer based in Cambridge, MA, who also works as a circuit rider for Preservation Massachusetts and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, providing technical assistance, advocacy, and preservation planning for people and the buildings they love across the Commonwealth. She blogs at www.annedodge.com.

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Guest Writer

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Preservation Fund Grants Aid Endangered Sites

Posted on: May 19th, 2009 by Sarah Heffern 1 Comment

 

Vizcaya’s Central Pool and South Façade, 2005.  Image of the central pool in Vizcaya’s center garden, with the south façade of the main house in the background. (Photograph by Bill Sumner)

Vizcaya’s Central Pool and South Façade, 2005. Image of the central pool in Vizcaya’s center garden, with the south façade of the main house in the background. (Photograph by Bill Sumner)

Two sites with a connection to our 11 Most Endangered List have been selected to receive grants from the Johanna Favrot Fund for Historic Preservation. This program, one of our Preservation Funds, provides nonprofit organizations and public agencies grants for projects that contribute to the preservation or the recapture of an authentic sense of place.

The Atomic Heritage Foundation – like one of our 2009 11 Most Endangered sites, the Manhattan Project's Enola Gay Hangar – has been listed by the Department of Energy as a Manhattan Project Signature Facility. The foundation received its grant to conduct a workshop focused on preserving and interpreting the Oak Ridge K-25 Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Built in 1943, the K-25 Plant was a major supplier of highly enriched uranium used to fuel the United States' Cold War nuclear defense systems. The planned workshop will focus on how to best preserve and tell the story of the plant and its workers as well as further the discussion on how to present the ethical, historical, technical, and political aspects of the Manhattan project.

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami, listed in 2008, received its grant to produce a cultural landscape report that will guide the preservation stewardship, rehabilitation and management of Vizcaya's gardens. Vizcaya was built between 1914 and 1917 by Chicagoan James Deering to serve as his winter residence. The historic gardens were oriented away from downtown Miami to afford guests a serene escape from the growing city.

These sites are but two of the 28 selected to receive either Favrot funds, or grants from the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Fund for Historic Interiors. Grants from the two funds, ranging from $2,500 to $10,000, are awarded annually and must be matched dollar for dollar by public or private funds.

Learn more about:

This year’s Favrot/Mitchell Fund recipients
Preservation Fund annual report
the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern is the social media strategist for the National Trust’s Public Affairs team. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class. Follow her on Twitter at @smheffern.