That’s because what is expected to unfold will be a near-miraculous event in an urban renewal, not religious, sense.
The hole in the Cotton Block corner is going to be filled in!
What has looked as though the Taliban had successfully attacked downtown’s most visible crossroads will be turned into an asset once again.
Has it really only been about seven years that the sore eyes of those who love Rome and pass by that location routinely have had to shudder at this sight? It seemed like all eternity.
For those who may not have heard about the cherry on top now adorning what recently has seemed like a banana-split concoction of fix up, patch up, build up moves — public and private — to make Broad Street look more delicious:
The ugly mess at 113-119 Broad St. at the corner of Second Avenue consisting of a somewhat sagging and boarded up building, the remnants of an excavation pit and an overgrown lot once an attractive little park has gotten a new, approved future. Better still hard money has been committed, a contractor hired, that July start announced even though the owner, Ed Hine, a Rome attorney and former state senator, apparently has zero tenants in hand.
TALK ABOUT faith in the future of the downtown! Hine bought the property in its current condition a couple of years ago at auction for $410,000 saying he didn’t have a clue as to what he would do with it — only that he was sick of looking at it from his office window nearby.
Now he’s apparently going to sink at least $200,000 more into a realistic effort to give it a visually pleasing and economically vital future as drawn up by local architect Robert Noble, who already has proven he has a nice touch and understanding on how to make structures new and old “fit in” with downtown Rome’s unique and historic appearance. Of course, Noble’s family was here before anything currently even standing on Broad was built and that’s a pretty unique “credential.”
Additionally the Historic Preservation Commission, which has somewhat of a reputation with local developers for saying “No!” to major changes in the external appearance of Broad Street — let’s concede some truly out-of-character building fronts popped up before it came into being — actually said “Yes!” to this one.
For those who don’t recall the sad recent history of this corner, let’s sum it up with words from one of the many tear-stained editorials appearing here in recent years:
“A BRIEF review of what is now a sad spectacle:
“On the corner of the Cotton Block at Second Avenue, a very historic building (where both cannon caissons and rifles were made during the Civil War and that once was called home by the Rome Tribune) became neglected by its owner to the point that bricks started falling off it, putting sidewalk pedestrians in danger.
“The city condemned it and it was torn down, leaving a messy demolition site. Downtown business interests, using their own money and volunteer labor, turned it into a miniature landscaped park with the owner’s permission. It was actually quite lovely.
“Eventually that property and the old furniture building next to it were purchased by developers with the intention of converting the site to an upscale restaurant, with parking, and having apartments above it. The building was boarded up while work began on the interior; the park was bulldozed pending the building being expanded onto the location.
“The deal fell through, for whatever reasons. After a short time, the developers decided to put the property up for sale — boarded up, former park looking like a junk heap, and cordoned off. Indeed, the site probably looks worse now than it did before.”
NOBLE’S PLAN and Hine’s investment will change all that for the much, much better.
While the renderings provide little clue as to what sort of tenants might be sought, being clearly directed toward the preservationists who have no say regarding what goes on inside any Broad Street building, it could be anything.
The new side entrance and 17 windows cut into the current blank brick wall, with the adjoining “pit” area turned into a front-to-back driveway with 12 parking spaces plainly for “customers only,” hint at a second floor with law or similar low-traffic offices.
The revitalized/repaired Broad Street frontage, while narrow, shows a block-deep open area on the first floor that leads to a totally overhauled and deliberately “antique” backside entrance and more new windows. It could handle a retailer (it used to be a furniture store) ... or even a restaurant. Most of the 17 existing restaurants now on Broad have no dedicated parking for diners, relying instead on the apparently ample public street parking and the nearby new parking deck next to Town Green.
As for the very corner location itself, which used to be the heart of the park area, the plan shows grass and five trees and is marked off as “future building.” That, of course, could be anything anyone is willing to pay to build that can get past the preservation commission. That’s so close to the heart of everything “happening” in the city center that it would be a great as a home base for guests ... or true “city dwellers.”
TO BE SURE, this historic corner is not yet the spring from which milk and honey flow. But to see grass about to grow instead of weeds, and busy bees soon to be at work there, turns into reality an observation this space made at the height of the blight:
“It is very much in the private interest to find ways to tap into this renewing land of opportunity in the downtown.”
That time appears to have come.