Sunday, August 15, 1999

Hamilton considers razing downtown building

Opposition argues for historic value

Enquirer Contributor

        HAMILTON - Over the last 68 years, the building near Hamilton's City Hall has been a bus terminal, a dry cleaner and has housed offices. Now preservationists hope the building itself doesn't become history.

        They plan to fight a proposal to demolish the building at 40 High St.

        City Council in several weeks could move to raze the city-owned building, which some council members say would cost too much to revi talize. The building was attached to the old Rialto Theater, which was torn down several years ago.

        “We've had water leakage,” said council member Sharon Hughes. “It hasn't been cared for in a long time.”

        She said it would take about $200,000 to make the structure usable and $600,000 to restore it. It will cost about $40,000 to demolish, not including costs to salvage parts of the facade, which Ms. Hughes would like to see happen if it is razed.

        Plans call for the land to be used as green space.

        “This is not a death knell for historic buildings in downtown Hamilton,” Ms. Hughes said. “It's not a snap judgment. Un fortunately, I really think it's going to come down.”

        Not if Ann Antenen has her way.

        “People are getting tired of having their community destroyed by politicians who don't care about how their community looks,” said Mrs. Antenen, president of Citizens for Historic Preservation Services. “They think demolition is the answer to everything.”

        She will spend the weekend sending out postcards to about 300 Hamilton residents urging them to oppose razing the structure.

        “To me it's very disappointing,” she said. “There are more than six people who care about that building.”

        She said the council has worked with her and other preservationists in the past to save historic buildings such as the Anthony Wayne Hotel and the Robinson-Schwenn building, a former opera house.

        “They're doing all these wonderful things,” Mrs. Antenen said. “It's got us a little confused.”

        But when Hamilton bought the structure near City Hall several years ago for offices, the plan was to demolish the building, said Mayor Tom Nye.

        “It was never the intention of the city to preserve the structures that were on that land,” said Mr. Nye, who lives in an historic neighborhood. “There's nothing, zero, historic inside. It's not without great reluctance that I, as a preservationist, and the rest of council, do this.”

        He said that over the years the building was gutted of any historical features.

        “If you wanted to make it appear to be historic, you would simply have to start all over. You can't create heritage. Just because something's old doesn't mean it needs to be saved.”

        If the building does come down, the facade and other parts should be saved to be incorporated into other structures, Ms. Hughes said.

        But that could backfire, Mrs. Antenen said.

        “It's a constant reminder when you do that,” she said.


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