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Today’s News-Sentinel carried an article by Kevin Leininger concerning the story behind the Subway Sandwiches move and demolition of 206 E Jefferson Boulevard – the Chauncey Griffith House.  When everything was said and done, the City ended up paying: $366,500 for the old property; about $435,000 to buy out the remainder of their lease; $40,000 for attorney and real estate fees; $16,000 for environmental clean-up; and up to $8,500 per month to compensate for lost sales, up to 10 months.  The City Council also approved on November 13, 2007, a $450,000 tax abatement for creating 2 new full-time job when the Subway reopens at its’ new location at the corner of East Jefferson Boulevard and Clinton street.  So, what’s the grand total?  Well, it could be as high as $1,392,500. 

When you compare it with other properties the City purchased, like Auto Tyme for $950,000 or the Palace Restaurant for $2.4 million or even the $265,000 for the old Centro America Restaurant, there’s such a wide range of prices with no ryhme nor reason.  If you look at the tax value or assessed value of the Subway property which is $237,000, you sometimes have to wonder.  But remember that assessed values don’t include things like the value of being at a location for several years or the value of the businesses reputation or loss of sales or even moving expenses.  I guess it’s left up to the business owner to get what he thinks is a fair shake for the deal.   In Subway’s defense, they had to purchase a new property, which I believe was listed on the CB Richard Ellis website for $435,000 as well as build the new building which was initially stated to be around $1.2 million.

The City was no doubt in a difficult position as you could hardly build Harrison Square around a Subway – although plans were initially developed to build around the Palace Restaurant as its’ owner’s initial asking price was higher than the City wished to pay.  Luckily, the City dodged that bullet when at the last minute, the owners decided to sell the property.  The City would have had to build more of an “L” shaped garage versus a straight rectangle structure.  In addition, the City would had to have built barricades around the Palace to prevent damage to the structure or patrons of the restaurant during construction of the Garage.  When the Palace owner decided to sell, the City was able to save that expense and offer a higher than first offered buyout for the structure.

But the real loser in all this was the Chauncey Griffith House – and the City’s Downtown Design Guidelines.  This building, while needing some work, was a beautiful building.  Somehow, it never received the attention that the 1000 block of Broadway received when it was given special historic status earlier in the year when it too was threatened with demolition.  The difference is that no one organized a public display of protest.

The new Subway is being built in a CM5A zone.  If you look at the Downtown Design Guidlines which the City adopted in January, 2004, page 5 under Purposes and intent, it states:

4. Encourage the preservation and reuse of historic buildings and properties.

and further down:

Location requirements.

In order to develop and maintain a pedestrian-friendly environment, the following standards should be applied to development within the central downtown area:

a. Buildings should be built at the edge of the public right of way to the greatest extent possible. However, in areas where a setback has been established new buildings should conform to the established setback for the area.

b. In infill situations, buildings should occupy the entire lot frontage.

And if you back up to page 3 in the introduction and defnitions of a CM5A zone, it reads:

…In order to maintain a pedestrian-friendly higher density central downtown, certain development characteristics typically associated with less dense development such as restaurant drive-through facilities, minimum building setbacks, single story buildings and on-site parking should be discouraged.

There is no setback in the area.  The Glorious Church is built to the sidewalk and the Y’s SOCAP building is also to the sidewalk.  Look at this photo I took of the new Subway Sandwiches construction location on December 2, 2007:

This is at the southern end of the lot looking towards downtown.  The footprint of the new building is at the back end of the property, about as far from the sidewalks and front of the property as possible.  Plus it’s been reported that the new Subway will include a drive-thru.  So one wonders, why have the guidelines if we’re not going to follow them?  It makes you wonder if the “Around the Square” plan will be adhered to in the same manner, or if it was something to calm the surrounding neighborhood?  And why another of our historic buildings with significant architectural features was once again allowed to bite the dust.  Read this post as well.

1 COMMENT

  1. I just wanted to comment on my post that I don’t like to get too involved in politics. I try to keep the websites as middle of the road as possible. However, the loss of the Chauncey Griffith House and the way this whole proccess has evolved has left me a bit frustrated. I’ll get back to regular programming now.

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