It's all about cars.
|Drab and Useless?|
|Lovely and full of Possibility?|
|It's all about parking|
(Howard Hall in lower left)
|Proposed garden and playground concept at Howard Hall site|
If the garden and playground offers such compelling community benefit, there's plenty of surface parking area that could be better used. The garden and playground doesn't need to be in the footprint of Howard Hall on the corner there. The Hospital's policy of subsidizing free parking and employee parking permits deforms the possibilities here. The whole development concept revolves around trading old buildings for surface parking.
But the Hospital's plan is also complicated by the neighborhood's desire for an ornamental emptiness, a green but empty extension of Bush Park. A streetcar-scaled mixed-use development might have afforded more opportunity for preserving and reusing Howard Hall.
The whole quasi-judicial hearing thing also complicates. That's why the piece in the paper had no comment from Historic Landmarks Commissoners. When the demolition permit application (in the form of removing this historic designation for Howard Hall) finally gets to the Historic Landmarks Commission, because they are making a decision as if they were a judge, they are supposed to avoid ex-parte contact and to make a decision on the merits, assessing only what is presented at the hearing. One problem with this is that it takes Commissioners out of the larger community-wide debate and informal conversation, and asks them to make a potentially hasty decision at a hearing. On complicated questions like this, ones that require deeper investigation into fact and opinion, it may not be possible to adequately weigh evidence in a single meeting of the Commission. The Hospital will say they can't afford to bank the building, for example, and Commissioners might need to be able take longer to assess that claim.
(For more on Howard Hall and the Blind School Parcel, see notes tagged Blind School Redevelopment.)