Preservation & progress: They work together to benefit Salisbury

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 27, 2016

This is the second column in a two-part series.

By Karen Hobson

Special to the Salisbury Post

Historic Salisbury Foundation, true to form, asked for a 365-day delay in the demolition of 201 East Innes Street. The larger implication in the Post’s editorial of Sept. 18 (“Make room for progress”) was that the foundation stands in the way of progress in Salisbury and that progress and historic preservation are incompatible. Neither implication is true.

The recent rebranding study completed for Salisbury and Rowan County pointed to the historic character of the city as its most important feature. It is Salisbury’s competitive advantage. Historic Salisbury Foundation has been a major contributor to safeguarding the historic character of our city and its built environment. To suggest that Salisbury no longer needs to protect that character is frightening.

While Salisbury is moving in a positive direction, it lacks the economic base and the top tier workforce required to be competitive in today’s business world. In the near term, that situation will not change. We are, and should continue, to lay the foundation for economic growth and a better workforce. However, to suddenly and strikingly reverse course signals that our existing built environment is disposable and undercuts the ability that Salisbury does have to attract new businesses and workers. It is a short-sighted approach to progress.

People who relocate to Salisbury do so primarily because of the character of the community, its environment and its affordable housing prices. Throw those assets away and what remains with the strong drawing power required to build a new foundation? The better approach is to capitalize on the assets that we have. Eyesores notwithstanding, the historic character of our downtown and the older neighborhoods that surround it is Salisbury’s primary asset.

The fierceness of the outcry— “tear it down now”—is troubling. For more than four decades, Salisbury citizens of all walks of life have supported Historic Salisbury Foundation’s mission. Many of them were volunteers, putting countless days, weeks and years into the Foundation’s work. That work has been for the benefit of Salisbury at large. We view ourselves as an extension of Salisbury in so many respects and we are deeply troubled by the Post’s implication that Historic Salisbury Foundation stands in the way of progress.

Respectfully submitted.

Karen Hobson is executive director of Historic Salisbury Foundation.