Demolishing James Apartments: More than the loss of one building

Why should we care about one building being demolished? One building older than 100 years doesn’t seem like much to lose. We have lots of buildings, right? Yes and no.

This Feb. 16, 2016 article by Brittany Crocker with photos by Mikala Compton published in the Columbia Missourian explains why the loss of one building can do so much harm. Zip down to the part where Deb Sheals, a historic preservation expert, is quoted.

The article quotes Sheals saying, “The thing about a historic district is it’s a collection. Each property by itself may not be the most historic building, but together they’re a pretty important grouping. As we keep chopping away at our downtown, we’re losing that character.”

Sheals goes on to note how the Niedermeyer was saved several years ago. Columbia City Council couldn’t say no to someone using the property and the land in whatever way he or she wanted. Instead, a local person bought the property and is restoring it.

In this case, the owners of the James Apartments said they had an offer from a developer that was too lucrative to refuse. So after gaining rents from the building for years, a profitable offer came and they took it. There’s no way to ask the former owners of the building how they’ll feel about Columbia once it is all high-rise apartments. Whether they’ll go downtown to shop or eat when they’re so sunshine able to make its way to the sidewalks.

And there will be no way to go back to the quirky look of Columbia once it’s all high-rise buildings and franchise eateries. Because that character, that look, those historic buildings will be lost.

Perhaps something better, grander, more interesting will be in its place. Certainly, whatever was there before the Tiger Hotel was there is gone, and who doesn’t love the historic Tiger Hotel. But I’m not personally convinced that a 10-story apartment building is going to be the treasure that the Tiger or the Missouri Theatre have become.

But I need to be willing to wait and see because the James Apartments will soon be history.

 

 

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