The Garver Feed Mill is too valuable a cultural and historic resource to allow it to crumble into dust. Here's one idea to help save it.
Some quick background first, though. The Garver building, which sits behind the Olbrich Botanical Gardens off Atwood Avenue, is a beautiful old building that reminds us of our industrial history.
The problem is that the now city-owned building is a mess, with a spotty roof and other major problems. It will cost well over a million dollars just to stabilize the basic structure and stop the erosion from water damage.
Common Wealth Development, which had a beautiful vision for an arts incubator space, had to back out of that $15 million project for lack of financing in this tough economy. You can read about in a Cap Times article.
I always thought that one of the problems with Garver was just the sheer size of the space. When I was in Portland a few years ago, I visited a site that dealt with the same kind of issue very creatively. In repurposing an historic industrial building, they redeveloped only part of the site.
On the rest of the site, they stabilized the walls but tore off the roof. The interior space was used as a kind of ruins garden. On the day I visited, there was a farmers market taking place, but it could also be used as an informal performance space.
When you think about Garver, wouldn't it be a great home for some Dr. Evermor sculptures or something similar? The space could be used very creatively for both exhibits and performances as a compliment to the rest of the building, which could be converted to the arts incubator originally envisioned, but at a lower cost since we'd be dealing with less space.
That's just one idea. But the bottom line is that we have to find a way to save Garver. We can't let a temporary economic downturn cause us to lose a valuable resource like this forever.