It was heartbreaking to read the decision of the Port of Everett concerning the Collins Building.
There was no lack of sympathetic support, active ( by HistoricEverett.org) and passive, to see this building remain with its beautiful wooden paned windows, irreplaceable timbers and open space. But these decisions always come down to finding an appropriate use compatible with a building’s history that will at least cover costs of rehabilitation and future management. Non-profits can raise money when they have defined goals, but it would seem there were no Port commissioners who could justify the “liability”. Another community meeting/market space would take up endless volunteer energy and require fund raising that would make little in return for the owners except the satisfaction of saving a building.
Buildings always require upkeep and care by their owners. Once abandoned all too often sellers are willing to pass on the renovation to the new owners – getting all they can from a booming real estate market. This makes it nearly impossible for a new owner to pay a mortgage and redevelop the space unless it financed by benevolent outside interests. Because of the last decade of over-development our communities are filled with empty unused buildings, but few so historic. Keeping everything new provides jobs and new enthusiasm for commerce. But couldn’t renovation or rehabilitation provide jobs and provide new community space much needed at the waterfront.
We appreciate the Port’s efforts to clean up the waterfront, provide a boat maintenance district and make it useable again so we hope they are successful in having its plans for this space pay for itself. In the following quote from the Herald “Port officials are hoping to use the site for a portion of a boatyard that would accommodate about 28 vessels inside what it calls the “Craftsman District”. The port is consolidating all of its boat businesses in the district and also is constructing a new port administration building nearby.” The name Craftsman District seems a bit ironic.
If I had the influence I would ask property owners to keep their buildings in good, usable condition. Our country is in trouble from the endless need to continue to build new and sprawl outward. Old buildings are often so overpriced it is impossible to make them usable. Anonymous hedge fund financing makes no one responsible for buildings and community places. If half the money used to build new structures were used to save old ones, even if they have to be significantly changed or adapted, we would be polluting less, conserving more and would be less dependent on outside influences, not to mention saving properties that are usually far more aesthetic and unique.
This story goes on with concerns over modern big box retail centers that are abandoned and now blighting communities all over the country. They are usually left for communities to decide what to do with them. But there are now ideas for saving unused retail big boxes, surely there could have been something for a historic one. Below are a variety of resources on this topic I’m sure the architect was aware of when he said he could find no lucrative use for the building.
Big Box Reuse by Julia Christensen. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008.