Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Demolished Tarkington Park Shelter Continues to Be Issue for Northside Residents
The Edward Pierre-designed shelter at Tarkington Park was unceremoniously torn down without any neighborhood input a few weeks ago.
At the time, there were a number of news reports on the subject with angry neighbors saying that they should have been consulted before the city took such a drastic step with a historically-significant building by a renowned architect.
Mayor Greg Ballard responded to the neighborhood criticism at the WTHR/Indianapolis Star/Indianapolis Recorder debate with a throw away line. "There's no such thing as a historic restroom," said Ballard, who claims he has pages of crime report data that justified the decision to unilaterally rip the structure down. Now, the city has budgeted $200,000 to replace the old shelter.
That hasn't stopped neighbors from complaining. In a letter to the editor, Indianapolis resident Tim Harmon told the Indianapolis Star that the reason the structure was in disrepair was that the city had ignored it. "The only reason this building was run down was because the Parks Department under the leadership of Mayor Greg Ballard had let it become run-down," wrote Harmon. A Facebook page has sprung up trying to get the city to rebuild the old shelter to Pierre's plans.
I'm willing to grant the point that the Parks Department may have ultimately been justified in by knocking down this decaying structure. They just should have gotten neighborhood input.
When you dig a little deeper, there's no indication that the historic shelter, however, was in danger. The city's improvement plan on parks says nothing about knocking down the old shelter and building a new one. It just talks about resurfacing sidewalks in Tarkington Park. But even if crime was a problem in this shelter (which Harmon seems to take issue with in his Letter to the Editor), the issue here, I believe, is that the city completely ignored the feelings of the people that use the park or the people in the surrounding neighborhoods. This is almost the same exact issue as the Georgia Street controversy.
At times Mayor Ballard shows little leadership, but at other times, he shows the ability to steamroll the opinions that really might be necessary to make sure the best thing happens for a neighborhood or the city. It is an inconsistency that is hard to fathom.
And, if Mayor Ballard thinks there's no such thing as an "historic restroom" he needs to go to St. Petersburg, Florida and look at this beautiful facility called "Little St. Mary's".
Legend has it that the restroom, located in downtown St. Petersburg, was designed by Henry Taylor in protest for not being paid satisfactorily for designing St. Mary's Catholic Church there in the city. That's just legend, but it also has made the 1927 landmark a focal point of city tours and a somewhat ironic location to enjoy a chuckle.
Can you imagine if Mayor Ballard were Mayor of St. Pete?