Nearly nine months after its members denied the City of Logan’s request to demolish the Emporium building, the Historic Preservation Committee had no major concerns with the newest iteration of the proposal after a presentation on Tuesday.
“I think Center Street has been really great and well received, and it would be great if we could just connect our parts of downtown with a great plaza and more things to draw people to downtown again,” said Mayor Holly Daines. “It’s wonderful to have historic buildings, but you also need people to come down and give it current life and enjoy it and be downtown.”
No vote or decision was made at Tuesday’s meeting, but after hearing from Daines and lead architect Corey Solum, many members of the committee agreed that the changes — including keeping an additional historic structure and creating a larger ice skating rink in lieu of the originally proposed housing and parking terrace — are an improvement from the previous proposal.
“But it’s still a very radical departure from history,” said committee member Thomas Graham.
Graham added he was conflicted because he opposed the demolition of historic structures, and committee member Keith Mott agreed.
“I, too, hate to knock down a historic building when it’s contributory, but at least this time it’s only knocking down one,” Mott said, as the original plan included demolition of two other buildings bookending the Emporium.
Committee member Christian Wilson, however, said the building in question (most recently the Poco Loco Swim Shop at 67 N. Main) was not worth saving, despite its historical grade.
“Frankly, I don’t think the Emporium is worth saving, either,” he added, though it was noted the Emporium is not a historical landmark downtown and therefore is not under the committee’s jurisdiction.
But Graham added he was excited about some of the amenities included in the new plan and appreciated the changes made after the December proposal was voted down, such as more landscaping and wall-like features to shield the plaza from Main street.
While Daines acknowledged the loss of the historic building, she said it was a necessary sacrifice to make the skating rink — arguably the most popular component of the proposed plaza — more substantial.
When not in use, the skating rink could be dismantled to form a splash pad in warmer months and create a larger plaza for concerts and other gatherings.
Where the initial proposal for the Center Block Plaza also included demolition of two buildings south of the Emporium (41 and 45 N. Main), the newest plans include renovation plans including a rooftop eatery at the former Sego Event Planning and Floral, Fred’s Flowers and Wicked Cute Boutique’s location at 41 North.
Though not officially classified a historic building, Plaza 45 has been deemed structurally sound — one of the few older buildings up to code that was initially intended for demolition — and will be remodeled for a blend of Plaza-related and private-lease office space in the proposal.
After receiving comments and feedback from the committee, the city and architect for the Plaza will finalize plans, run cost estimates and eventually go before Logan’s Planning Commission.