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home : opinions : opinions September 15, 2014

11/13/2013 9:38:00 AM
The Trust Building is sound and worth saving

As a preservationist, I’m used to the condescending tones of more intelligent businessmen that we just don’t understand what things cost. Ignore the fact that downtown revitalization is a huge movement across the nation because savvy real estate developers recognize the marketing power of the inherent charm of historic buildings, providing a desperately needed sense of place often lost in the drone-like jungle of franchise fast foods, franchise retail, etc., etc. Get off the interstate at any major exit, and you’re Anywhere USA. Ignore the fact that renovating historic buildings is one of the most comprehensive ways to recycle rapidly declining resources and reduce our carbon footprints. Oh, and don’t forget to completely ignore the fact that Florence has a strong history of demolishing historic buildings with great fanfare of progress to come, leaving unproductive vacant land for the next 20 years.

I envisioned a vibrant downtown decades ago, and have worked as well as I know how to help make it happen – which has always been through adaptive reuse of our important built environment. The fact that it’s happening now is more exciting to me than most people, and I’m thrilled with the prominent part that our historic buildings play in revitalization. However, as a community, we have to assess our progress and be careful not to be trapped in the tyranny of the now, the quick fix, the easy way. Some buildings are a greater challenge to develop, but that doesn’t equate to tossing them away as useless. The Trust Building, contrary to what you’ve been led to believe, is structurally sound, filled with solid historic materials including original windows, mosaic tile floors, woodwork, and an awesome ceiling on the ground floor whose main damage is cosmetic puncture holes from hanging suspended ceilings and electrical lines.

The ground floor with its handsome granite base and large windows along Irby Street can be easily renovated, adding back the impressive cornice with new, available and cost effective materials. We’ve had structural engineers, contractors and developers that actually know and understand historic buildings carefully reviewing the Trust Building working on cost estimates and pro formas. The building would provide at least 20 market rate apartments and anyone that studies downtown revitalization knows that residential use is critical to the ongoing success of the area, not just hotel and overnight lodging, but real people that make it home. This is what will insure that the millions of dollars that are being used in the 100 block of West Evans is money well spent. It’s been said that things are not good because they’re old, but old because they’re good. I don’t know of any building in Florence that this more aptly describes than the Trust Building. Agnes Willcox, Florence




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