Tear it Down & Kiss it Goodbye

Do you want to see a hip SoHo sorta district in Lynchburg? (Perhaps it could be called SoRo – South-of-the-Roundabout) If you do, you may want to buy 702 & 708 5th Street from the Lynchburg Housing Authority. If not, they will be a vacant lots. And vacant lots in urban enviornments, unless filled with the remains of American Indians, Civil War Soldiers or a T-rex, have ZERO historical significance.Oh, and vacant lots increase the tax base by $0.

(story from News & Advance)

The city owns 702 for $20,000 and 708 for $10,000, respectively. The cost of demolition would be about $16,000. Why not accept an offer of $1 in exchange for an agreement to rehab the properties? If these buildings are demolished, the chances of affordable renovations encouraged by tax credits and low leases for commercial and residential tenants on 5th street will be gone. Instead, you will have a street that is neither desirable for restoration or new construction. Truth is, these buildings are in disrepair from the outside perspective. But I know several buildings on Jefferson and Church Streets that Mother Nature had been pissing in for 6-10 years with no roof and people have found a way to salvage them. Why? Oh, that’s right … they were not torn down and the city (Rachel Flynn) made a good call and sold them for a $1. Ask Gaston and Wyatt or Dominion 7 how they like their diggs.

702 5th Street

708 Main Street

As a good friend says, “How can our city preach historical preservation if they can’t even do it themselves?” Valid.

Let’s cut through the crap. The buildings are on 5th. Period. If they were in any other area the city would be begging for bids to renovate, not demolish.

So what’s the big deal? There is very little architecture in its original state on 5th Street. The CDC is in the process if seeking a Historical District nomination. IF, (big if) the nomination is approved, it unlocks a ton of tax incentives for the current properties to be renovated. They are in the middle of preparation for Phase 2 of the 5th street improvements as well. For more on that, check out the 86-page proposal that they are working towards. Have they been slow? Yes. Things in Lynchburg tend to be that way. But there is a new movement of young energy that wants to not only revitalize Lynchburg for financial reasons but for reasons of recycling what is good. Reusing what exists. All in an effort to create a community. Why would the city promote and entertain the idea of revitalizing 5th street – heck, even pouring your money into it only to demolish any hopes of preservation? It’s gonna take a ton of work and private market capital coupled with tax incentives but it can be done.

I’ll leave you with this … Ever been to Brooklyn? Was it rough at one time? Yup. Ever been to Georgetown? Same story. 5th street is rich with culture and heritage. It’s also rich with a past of crime and filth – drugs, pimps and hookers to be exact. But today, it’s ripe. Ripe for restoration and ripe for a renaissance. I truly believe this little section of 4 or 5 blocks could be a cool art district that brings culture and value to a city that longs for that very thing it sees in its metropolitan neighbors. The only way to get there is to do something radical. Find value where others see none. Then, in 5 years when people from Charlottesville and Stanton are driving here to see our “scene,” you can say you knew it would happen. But that only starts by rehabbing–not destroying–what already exists.

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