BY FRANK SCHNIDMAN
We have already lost the Hotel Putnam. What is next? It seems that the historic buildings around the Old Jail site may be next.
During the Monday night, June 5, DeLand City Commission meeting that resulted in the denial of the rezoning of the GlassHouse Square project, there was substantial discussion of the impact of the vibration that would be caused by the proposed new construction on the surrounding historic sand-brick buildings. During public comment, an engineer who has worked on the restoration of sand-brick buildings cautioned that the vibration that new construction would cause would damage these historic structures. There was also concern that resulting damage might make these buildings unsafe structures. Unsafe structures, like the Hotel Putnam, which ended up being torn down.
In countering the argument that vibration from new construction would be a problem, the awful words that historic preservation advocates feared were boldly stated:
“I think the problem with buildings is going to be the demolition … demolition is where the main vibration is going to come in.”
These words were spoken by GlassHouse Square’s representative, someone intimately familiar with the site and the impacts demolition and new construction will cause to surrounding properties. Damaging vibration likely to cause structural deficiencies is more likely to be caused by demolishing the Old Jail than any new construction on the site.
Go to the site yourself. 130 W. New York Ave. Walk New York Avenue and Georgia Avenue between Woodland Boulevard and Florida Avenue. Walk the alleys. Look around and consider the risk that these buildings will be substantially damaged by demolishing the Old Jail.
Serious investigation needs to be undertaken to verify the real risk to the heart of historic Downtown DeLand by the demolition of the Old Jail. And serious investigation needs to be done of the financial viability of the adaptive reuse of the Old Jail building.
Remember the Hotel Putnam, and learn from that experience. Do we want this historic portion of our Downtown remembered by the West Volusia Historical Society’s sale of $50 commemorative bricks from the buildings along Artisan Alley?
— Schnidman, of DeLand, is an attorney and a former professor of urban and regional planning.