Rehab building into needed apartments, and you boost the tax base and economy.

Tearing down the former “Professional Building” is the biggest example of county government waste and haste yet.  Once again, with no plan for the empty space, Polk County is determined to tear down a fourth historic building.  I think anyone on the street can figure out that if the building was rehabbed into apartments, all those tenants are going to contribute to the tax base and the local economy.  

    Before the building housed professional services, it was the Villa St. Vincent Nursing Home.  Does anyone remember going with Garfield Reichert to sing carols every Christmas to the elderly?  Before that it was a hospital which treated Charles Lindbergh’s father, and before that it was the original Motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Benedict and built of the finest materials and workmanship.  Names like your grandparents and great grandparents built it, and names like McKinnon, Rasmussen, Stone, Spence, Hagen, Farley, Mercil & Sylvester and many, many more donated to the building of the Addition.  

    Memories aside, I have heard that the 28,000 (estimated) square foot building has a relatively new roof, and boiler.  I’ve seen the leaded glass windows and doors, ceramic tile, hard Maple floors, and the all original Georgia pine woodwork not even painted over! I’ve read about an elevator, and it is a solid white brick building with a parking lot.  All in walking distance from downtown!  This huge building is three times the size of the Wayne Hotel. What a perfect building to work together with UMC to create an entire live/work space for one of their growing majors.  

    OK, Polk County, so you own the building; does that mean you can do whatever you want with it? I don’t think so. Where are the facts and figures that led you to this decision? What is your goal? If you want another parking lot for the Government Center employees, come out and say so. If you want it off your back, hire a realtor! The County could even have an interactive web site with current agendas and up to date minutes written so a lay person can understand them.  Seth Godin said in his Jan. 18, 2012 blog:  “Organizations tend to view "responsibility" as doing the safe, proven and traditional tasks, because to do anything else is too risky. The more successful they become, the less inclined they are to explore the edges.  In fact, organizations with reach and leverage ought to be taking more risks, doing more generous work and creating bolder art. That's the most responsible thing they can do.”  In other words, next time, if there is a next time “Artspace,” comes knocking on your development door, invite them in, don’t lock them out!

    Back to planning: How well I remember sitting in the “hot seat” in the overly formal County Board room being hammered by a newer Commissioner for a plan when I had just handed out a plan to preserve the Wayne Hotel as the “Palace Pavilion.”  It was so brutal, I asked what the County’s plan for the empty space was and another Commissioner said “First we take it down, and then we will worry about a plan.”  I think that along with understanding how the tax base is decreased or increased, people understand that planning, transparency, and generosity first and foremost.