Progressive NIMBYism is becoming a scourge that must be stopped. It's a peculiar breed of NIMBYism in that it's deceitful. True NIMBYs are more straight forward in their motivations. Progressive NIMBYs fight development with "historic preservation", "smart growth", "infill" and "brownfield development." They use ideas that suggest growth and development but keep actual growth and development at arms length. It's infuriating, destructive and stupid.
An overarching issue behind a lot of this is the attitude that because something is old means it's historic. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Sometimes things that are old are simply old. While it is true that things that are old can have a character that should be saved, it is equally true that some things that are old are decrepit, in disrepair and have outlived their usefulness. Even if we concede that in many cases it is preferable to reuse certain buildings that are old for environmental, economic and historical purposes, the degree to which we believe certain structures fall into these categories has become asinine. In fact, the level to which this can climb becomes so absurd that it becomes patently obvious that it is pure NIMBYism running amok. Let me provide some examples of some of this nonsense.
Exhibit A: The Twig and Leaf.
You can read much more about this situation here. But the short story is that the CVS Pharmacy corporation wanted to purchase a local "institution"/diner called the Twig and Leaf, demolish it and build a new storefront. For reasons that are unclear to me to this day some in the neighborhood could not let this stand. Even before CVS actually purchased the land, the building was deemed a landmark. This cinder block box was described as a mid century modern landmark of architecture in the city of Louisville. In reality it is an atrocity. If someone proposed that an identical structure be built on this spot (in one of the more affluent walkable urban parts of the city, aka a gold mine) they would need to have their head examined. So rather than making someone develop a multistory mixed use structure including a pharmacy in one of the most walkable parts of the city we get to instead forever have a sub-par diner housed in the ugliest fucking building within 3 miles. Thanks history!
Exhibit B: St. Francis School
The level of ignorance of how the real world operates amongst some in the progressive growth world is depressing. Particularly since I would identify myself as someone who would be in their club. The St. Francis School of Louisville is demolishing a parking garage immediately behind their current home in the old YWCA building on Broadway. The garage has been out of use for well over a decade, has no architectural significance beyond that it is one of the oldest garages in the city and the school plans to replace the structure with a multipurpose arts and athletics complex with a garage in the lower level. All of this sounds spectacular.
The development was covered over at the blog Broken Sidewalk and this is the second comment:
Why couldn’t they buy the adjacent Mcdonalds? Bring some infill to Broadway, keep the garage for parking and renovate the old retail spaces. I’m worried this may become (due to economic conditions) another case of a historic structure being torn down for a building that never gets built.
The last line is a reference to the fact that there will be a parking lot there until the funds are gathered to build the new structure, so the commenter is clearly not an optimist. He also evidently believes that a brick box that was a parking garage is somehow "historic. I'll let you judge with this photo:
He also asks why they didn't "just buy the adjacent McDonald's." By that he means the two story McDonald's located on the corner of two of the largest thoroughfares in downtown. It also sits directly across from a large community college and essentially prints money for the owner in the back room. I'm sure a private school with a 9-12th grade enrollment of less than 145 students can afford the comical amount of money it would take to purchase one of the busiest McDonald's in the state. Also this is a school looking to expand. Not a developer. So the idea that they would have any expertise in developing retail real estate is insane.
Somehow the obsessive nature of creating infill, and saving things because they are old trumps the concept of demolishing a dilapidated parking garage in a section of downtown that could use an architectural facelift and replacing it with this:
I don't know what to tell you.
Look forward in the future to some thoughts on the concept of retaining "character."