It’s Just a Facade 

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If you want an idea of precisely how ineffectual we have been over the years, how ineffectual all of the media have been and how ineffectual our historical preservation groups have been at saving historic landmarks, just look around. Now that you’ve seen the glass and the metal, the parking lots and empty lots, look while you can at what had been the battle cry building of all those concerned about historical preservation: the Brooks Arcade at the corner of 300 South and State.

I’ve had my shoes dolled up in that building at the Broadway Shoe Repair, and I’ve dropped in to say hello to the Greeks in Jim’s Hat Shop. Jim died recently. Maybe he knew what was coming, because you just don’t find shops like that anymore. I also remember shopping for clothes in the store that once occupied the corner space with that terrible overhang. I think it was a coffee shop before that. That was sometime in the 1970s. It’s been vacant since.

They say the interior of the Brooks Arcade was especially ornate or of rare design. Not too many of us ever saw that. What we have seen is a building of distinct architecture, of sculpted masonry, and of increasing annoyance to our city fathers. For all of her faults, Deedee Corradini at least kept the wrecking ball from the Brooks Arcade. She wasn’t on a mission to save the building; she was simply prescient enough to know not to mess with it.

In her final days as mayor she did as she always did, and agreed to some secret deal that would add bottom line to a developer, but that would also keep the building intact. One of the first acts of the Rocky Anderson administration was to nix that deal because the bidding process—if any—was deemed unfair. That decision has come back to bite the mayor square in the ass. With a hollow claim that no one locally is willing to save the building, it has been sold to Arizona-based AlphaGraphics. The company will build a large structure on the site replete with—what else?—a parking terrace. As appeasement, the outer façade of the Brooks Arcade will remain. Who said you can’t make a pig’s ear out of a purse?

The city could have found a local tenant, but local tenants don’t bring new jobs and already pay taxes. And we don’t believe that there wasn’t a tenant anywhere willing to save the building. So, forget the façade: Tear down the Brooks Arcade, let it rest in peace—and wait for the next historic treasure to fall.

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