Editorial: Make room for progress

Published 12:11 am Sunday, September 18, 2016

The replacement of an empty garage with a new structure containing offices and apartments should spark celebration in Salisbury, not a one-year delay.

Now that the city’s Historic Preservation Commission has put the demolition delay in place, the people behind the new building are determined to make the best of the situation. The city should do the same.

Architect Pete Bogle of the Bogle Firm presented the proposal to demolish the old granite garage at 201 E. Innes St. Demolition would clear the way for construction of a mixed-use building to house offices for Healthcare Management on the ground floor and residential units above. The building could be two or three stories tall — an encouraging development for a spot that has looked like a forgotten leftover for decades.

Across the street, the Gateway Building that houses the Chamber of Commerce presents a welcoming face to those entering the downtown. To have a fresh, substantial building opposite the Gateway would improve not only visitors’ first impressions  but also the functionality and value of the block.

The old station has a distinctive look, with its large blocks of stone and ancient bays. It is most assuredly a relic of an era gone by. But that’s more an argument to move the structure than to let it stand in the way of new investment. At a hearing about the demolition, Historic Salisbury Foundation representatives held true to their principles with earnest arguments for saving the structure. Historic Salisbury has helped bring old buildings back to life time and again. But the potential benefits of new downtown development are far greater than anything the garage could contribute to the city.   

The 201 E. Innes debate is a calmer version of the battle that raged nearly 10 years ago over two historic West Fisher Street buildings. Without question, the expansion of First United Methodist Church’s facilities lends much more to the aesthetics and use of the property than the buildings that were torn down — also after a one-year delay.

As a steering committee works to update Salisbury 2020 with a more specific and forward-looking plan, members should take these conflicts into consideration. What is the city’s ultimate goal? Preservation is woven into the fabric of Salisbury, but the city would unravel if it refused to make room for progress.