Thursday, September 22, 2005

Face Lift Folly?

Apparently today has been set aside to respond to criticism of the renovation of Allen County GOP Headquarters. The first three letters to the editor in this morning's JG defend what's been happening on the corner of Harrison and Main, and Kevin Leininger devotes his column to the controversy as well:
My friend Jim Sack generally considers himself a Democrat. So when he wrote a letter to the editor last week criticizing the “cheesy” makeover of Allen County’s Republican headquarters – after publicly blasting the party’s lack of maintenance just four months ago – some might be tempted to dismiss his concerns as a partisan cheap shot.

That would be too bad, because – whatever his motive – Sack’s passion for preserving our architectural history should serve as a timely warning and inspiration for people working to revitalize downtown Fort Wayne.

County GOP Chairman Steve Shine was tired of doing nothing when he and three partners paid $60,000 for the headquarters at Main and Harrison streets two years ago. The century-old brick building had deteriorated, reflecting poorly on city and party alike. So when Shine announced renovation plans in late 2003, the response was unanimously positive – until work finally began in June and the project’s design became obvious.

I was as disappointed as Sack when workers with Harold McComb & Sons began to cover up the old street-level bricks with what project architect Matt Kelty calls an “exterior insulation finishing system.” In English, that means sheets of plastic-based insulation are attached to the exterior wall, then covered with mesh and painted plaster – a grayish brown, in this case.

So, although GOP headquarters now has a new roof, new windows, cleaned and restored upper-level brick and, soon, attractive new signs, the $500,000 project’s most obvious feature is the new painted plaster wall extending along the building’s Harrison Street side – a feature that was part of Kelty’s original design but apparently overlooked until work began.

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