LOGAN – The Emporium Building on Center Block still has a pulse – at least for another two weeks.
After inviting the public to weigh-in on the pros and cons of demolishing the Emporium and four other structures, members of the Logan Historic Preservation Committee( HPC) tabled a vote on the future of the site until they meet again on December 2.
More than 30 residents, including a number of downtown business and property owners, attended the meeting and expressed their opinions.
Chris Sands owns one of the buildings on Center Block. He believes it’s time to look to the future.
“I’m grateful for the attention, the interest and the investment on behalf of the city on this block,” said Sands. “I’m a believer in place making. There’s really not much in the way of integrity here to be concerned about or to be interested in protecting, so I don’t feel like there are very good arguments for keeping what we have here. There are a million good arguments for moving forward with this project.”
Bryce Bosworth owns U&I Furniture. He opposes the project in its current form.
“I haven’t seen the full plans,” he said. “This is one arm of the idea and I’d like to see the whole plan before we start the project. I just think we need to take our time and make the right decision.”
At issue for HPC members isn’t necessarily the Emporium itself, rather the two buildings on the far south and north of the current five structure complex. The two book-end buildings are considered contributory structures (Grade ‘B’), the Emporium is considered non-contributory.
Contributory structures are structures built more than 50 years ago that maintain their original historic fabric and significance. Non-contributory structures are those built either less than 50 years ago or built within the historic period, but their historic make-up no longer maintains its integrity.
“What the city is asking, is for us to make a trade,” said HPC member, Keith Mott. “I don’t think anybody argues we should knock down the Emporium, seriously. I think it can go. But do you trade two ‘B’ structures for a somewhat nebulous plan. It certainly would be a little easier to vote yes if I knew exactly what that plan was.”
The city does have a plan in mind for the space. The concept, which was presented to the public in September and yet to be finalized, includes an apartment building, plaza, ice rink, water feature, stage and parking structure.
Logan Mayor Holly Daines and city leaders have been working with developer Dan Lofgren for more than a year on the plans, which have been revised a number of times and are still being modified.
That’s part of the problem, according to HPC members, who expressed concern the plans were too fluid.
“We just need a little more information to know exactly where we’re headed,” said HPC member Gary Olsen.
“We had hoped to have them (revised plans) for this meeting and didn’t,” admitted Daines. “I see this as part of the process. We can certainly work on trying to have designs ready if you want to meet again in two weeks.”
Eugene Needham III, former city council member and owner of Logan Fine Art Gallery (located on the same block as the Emporium), has made no secret he won’t be happy with any of the designs. He threw out the idea of buying the Emporium himself in an effort to re-purpose it and bring back retail.
When asked if the the city would consider the private sale of the property to someone else?
“Not at this point,” said Daines. “We would like to control what happens in that historic downtown.”