The Problem With Preservation: How Do We Save Beautiful but Obsolete Buildings?

CC BY 4.0. Maryland National Bank/ Baltimore Heritage

In Baltimore and Toronto and many other cities, little gems are being lost.

New housing is something that most cities are desperate for, and this project sounds like it probably fills a need:

The problem, as Fred Scharmen tweets, is that "this all sounds great, but they’re proposing to tear down one of the best buildings in Baltimore." And judging from the photo on top, it is a gem, definitely a keeper.

Cities need housing and they don't need bank branches in these days when you can do almost all your banking in a phone app. Fred continues:

The Explore Baltimore Heritage Team devotes a page to it, the first commercial building in town with a precast concrete frame.

Bank of Montreal Toronto

Bank of Montreal Toronto/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

It very much reminded me of a bank branch in Toronto that is now all boarded up. Unlike Baltimore, these don't sit around; if it isn't a Starbucks or Pizza Pizza, then it is waiting for a building permit to become a condo. Like the Baltimore building, it has a marble clad vault sticking out the front, announcing its wealth and stability.

side of bank

Bank of Montreal Toronto/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

There are high quality materials all round, all stainless steel and nice details, although I do not know how they let that electrical box get planted there. This was built for the ages. Now it is going through the Demolition by Neglect Phase, left to deteriorate so that nobody misses it. The building permit must be getting close, because it has skipped the Noxious Use Phase, where the developer rents it to a loud nightclub so that neighbours are happy to see it go.

Meanwhile we lose almost every interesting building in the city as they go to usually bland condos. With bigger buildings, like the JP Morgan Chase building in New York, I make an upfront carbon emissions argument, but this is much smaller.

OK, it's not Notre Dame, but not every important building is a cathedral or centuries old. I do not know the answer to this, but we have to do a better job.