Written by Mike Martin
Led by Columbia College honcho's wife, Parks Commission blows off neighbors on historic demolition
COLUMBIA, 6/18/12 (Beat Byte) -- The City of Columbia, at the urging of Parks and Rec. Commissioner Linda Hutton, wife of Columbia College building services director Bob Hutton, is moving ahead with plans to demolish the Heibel March building, a City of Columbia notable historic property said to be targeted for take down to help Columbia College expand its campus to the Business Loop.
Neighbors in the adjacent North Central area aren't pleased with a lack of courtesy or communication about the move. The City of Columbia Historic Preservation Commission has also expressed reservations.
"The Parks and Rec Commission moved on this topic without notifying our neighborhood association, without giving us an opportunity to be heard, or without calling us afterwards to let us know that the vote had taken place," North Central neighborhood association president Patricia Fowler explained. "We learned about the vote to recommend demolition from a Missourian reporter Monday, May 21."
City Hall owns the Heibel-March building and Field Park, where it sits, and could easily afford to restore it. But Columbia College has wanted it gone for years, sources close to the situation maintain. That story hit the grid recently with several comments from retired city parks director Dick Green urging the college on.
To mollify anxious neighbors, the city "pretends" to get behind "private, non-profit" initiatives to restore the building, but provides no money or support of any kind. City Hall will not sell the land, making it impossible to borrow against for a private group to finance the renovation.
With no support, every restoration initiative fails like clockwork, while Mr. Hutton and his employer -- who have virtually nothing to do with NCCNA, neighbors have said, unless they need public support for their own projects -- work behind the scenes to tear the building down.