The Providence Journal reports today on a RI Supreme Court decision that has both sides in the Grove Street School saga claiming victory.
The Supreme Court ruling overturns a lower court decision ordering the City to issue a demolition permit for the partially demolished former school house. The demolition order was stayed when the city appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled that the city should not be ordered to demolish the building, but that it should be declared unsafe. Generally, when a building is declared by the city to be unsafe, the next step has been to demolish it (see The Old Pubic Safety Complex and Old Fruit and Produce Warehouse).
So where exactly does this leave the Grove Street School? The Journal quotes Michael Tarro, an assistant city solicitor and one of the surviving children of Richard Tarro who bought the building from the city in 1993 as saying, “If something could be done to restore it, I would do it. But all the engineering and data I have shows that it would be impossible financially to rehabilitate.” The Tarros wanted to tear down the school to provide parking for their funeral home business across the street. However, during the trial, the City produced expert witnesses who testified just the opposite, and the Court ruled that the building should not be ordered demolished.
The WBNA has taken a lead on trying to find parties interested in redeveloping the building. The Journal quotes Anne Taite, President of the WBNA, “there is a lot of potential for redesign now that it has been partially torn down. It’s an opportunity to merge a new, modern style with the old.”
I like what Anne is saying here, it is what I have seen for the future of the building. As Vicki Veh, interim president of the Providence Preservation Society stated to the Journal, the habit of demolition by neglect has to stop in Providence. The Grove Street School can and should be where we the residents drew a line in the sand and told the City enough. Hold property owners responsible and stop letting our architectural heritage melt away. The school with a clearly modern appendage healing the demolition wound could be a monument to that insistence. It could visually speak to this being the last time we let this happen.