19 June 2008

of sentiment and development

Update: MySa's Downtown Blog has a great report on the status of the Hedrick Building (mentioned below)...Check it out here.

Can sentimentality wreck our good judgment?

I can imagine that it might. I can imagine someone lingering in a relationship for nothing more than sentimental reasons…and I can imagine that many relationships like that have caused more pain than necessary for the people involved.

I can imagine a well-meaning person hanging on to knick-knacks and little bits of this and that until the memories and tidbits become so overwhelming that one must be dug out of their now clutter-inundated hovel. Sometimes even those things with sentimental value are best placed by the curb. Their value is not lessened. It just isn’t in the garage anymore.

Now imagine with me that beautiful downtown San Antonio had an open piece of land on the RiverWalk. Imagine that it had a couple of crumbling, 80-year-old, vacant, graffiti-laced, boarded-up buildings. Now, imagine the city saying that they couldn’t be demolished to make way for new development because of someone’s objective view of historic significance. Well, that’s what has happened.

San Antonio’s HDRC (Historic and Design Review Commission) called the Hedrick Building historic and denied an application to demolish it. I’ve actually only known the building as the “RTD Kills” building – as that seems to be the favorite scrawling of graffiti-artists who, throughout the years, have busted out windows or hung over the roof to tag every reachable square inch of the property.

Maybe it has some value. In fact, I am sure it does. But is this another case where sentimental value has clouded our perception of the true worth of something? I mean, this isn’t the Alamo we’re talking about. This is a grey-brick, 10-story office building from the 20s. It looks just like old 10-story office buildings from Des Moines, Midland, Duluth, and a hundred other towns in America.

And yet we hang on for sentimental reasons. We long to recapture the glory of its heyday. Like we do with that old relationship, the knick-knacks from that 1984 trip to the Smoky Mountains, or our grimy basketball practice jersey from high school.

I have to believe that these things are not just simple clutter. They can become dangerous…roadblocks on the path to the better things that lie ahead of us.

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