This morning’s paper carried an interesting story about the old city hall, a magnificent building of limestone at 202 N. Alabama Street, which has stood abandoned for many years. (Early in our career - in the days of Charlie Boswell and Al Losche - we attended some meetings there!)
The thrust of the article was the future of the building and whether it should be returned to municipal function. Would it, for instance, be better to move some functions (mayor, council, etc.) to that building, freeing up major space in the current building? A suitable alternative to a completely new, and very expensive, courts building?
We tend to say "Yes." Lets give it a shot. How about it, you historic preservationists? It is a landmark which deserves protection.
A first question to be solved is the monetary one. A Mr. Lotter, spokesman for the mayor, says: "If we had a partner to help us restore that historic domed structure...." No, Mr. Lotter, what you need is a partner to help you and the mayor learn the meaning of the word priority.
Here’s where the amazing timing comes in. As we prepare to hand the Pacers another $10 million gift, today’s story indicates a need for $10 million to put the old building into usable condition. Now, Mr. Lotter, in case it doesn’t come to mind, why would it not be to the benefit of the taxpayer to prioritize a "new city hall" over maintenance of a basketball court? Couldn’t we stop at $30 million for the Pacers and use that next $10 million for the people?
Another problem mentioned is the lack of parking space at the location. Another miracle of timing. We’re looking at a freebie of a $13 million parking garage for developers of an area just half a dozen or so blocks away. Is it really impossible to tell the developer, "Sorry, boys. We’ll let you use the garage if you want to, but it is not going to be nearly as handy for your tenants as you had hoped!?"
Here are 23 million taxpayer dollars, obviously readily available, which should be allocated to a project of major fiscal and historical importance to the city. Is that too much to ask?
Well, yeah, dammit! In this city, it probably is.