Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Should all of Spirit Square be saved?

Perhaps you’ve heard there’s been a flurry of attention around Spirit Square, the arts venue based in a historic former Baptist church in uptown Charlotte.

Originally, most of its structure save for the historic church sanctuary was slated for redevelopment and likely demolition as part of the complicated land-swap deal for an uptown baseball stadium. That plan was put on hold after a public outcry, but city and county leaders persist in trying to reap the benefits of the valuable land it sits upon, along with the Main Library next door. Expect to hear about changes to that block in the coming months.

Yesterday, a member of the task force studying what to do with the complex gave an update to members of Historic Charlotte, accompanied by local historian Tom Hanchett.

As a near-native (I was born outside Charlotte but grew up here from age 6), I’ve been aware of Spirit Square’s significance to the uptown landscape since it opened in the 1970s. Most of my affection was directed toward domed First Baptist Church sanctuary, the creation of architect J.M. McMichael.

But what I didn’t realize until last night is that the rest of the structure, even though it seems to be a hodgepodge that’s ugly in spots, is also historically significant.

The original church building opened in 1908, replacing a structure that had been erected there in 1884. In 1922 came the gallery in the rear, originally a printing plant and now home to the main gallery of local film and photography museum The Light Factory, with a distinctive sawtooth roofline. In 1923, the neighboring education building – now home to a number of local arts groups – opened. In 1952, a second educational building – the one facing Seventh Street, with a WFAE radio studio visible through its ground-floor window – joined the complex. It’s one of the only surviving examples of international-style architecture in the center city, Hanchett said.

Renovations in the 1980s added the new lobby entrance adjacent to the sanctuary on Tryon Street and a new rear entrance facing College Street.
Architect David Wagner, the task force member who led last night’s discussion, noted that Spirit Square has already evolved several times from its original use. The current question, he said, is "what is its next iteration?"

The task force, he said, is "trying to figure out what this building needs to be for the next 15-20 years."

There are already plans to put a soaring condo tower atop another nearby historic structure – the Carolina Theatre. It’s difficult to imagine that either Spirit Square or the Main Library could retain their character and charm if they were dwarfed by condos above them. What happens to the arts groups that use the buildings if the block is redeveloped? And from a historical perspective, does Spirit Square retain its full historic value if any of the structures around the sanctuary are torn down?

What’s your vote – would you keep all the current uses at Spirit Square and Main Library and just develop the parking lot portion of the block, or would you rather see a different use for more of that area? E-mail me or post here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope they keep it all. At the very least keep the old theater and redevelope the rest (hopefully replacing the Duke theater with another one).

5:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am never coming back to this blog if People want to read what I have to say contact me at at netzero. I am so tired of being monitored and mocked ; My new website tells the truth and about why Yankees should be prepared in Charlotte for suprises unlike any other STATE.
signed Mr. Peabody

9:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the first I've heard that the Main Library is threatened also. If they want to tear it down, I'll lay down in front of the bulldozers! The library is a valuable resource to all of Charlotte, and it would be a CRIME to tear it down.

As for Spirit Square, I think it should remain as is. I'll be surprised if it does ... Charlotte developers love to destroy our history, and the city government lets developers do anything they want.

I'll take lots of pictures, so we'll at least have some record of this beautiful, historic architecture.

10:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hell yes it should be saved. Spirit Square used to be the ONLY reason to go downtown/uptown/whatever. And yes, developers are part of the problem but so is the (mostly) worthless city council. Stop voting those people in!

But, realistically, we have no say. Its pretty much doomed. Take some nice pictures of it while you can.

5:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to be clear, nobody has proposed tearing down the old Baptist church. That's the pretty part of Spirit Square, and it isn't threatened. The part in question is the backside, which is ugly 1980s boxiness. While there are some elements that could be saved, the majority of it is not architecturally significant and not even much older than the structure that would replace it. If anything, it gives a weird low-rise feel in the middle of a high-rise district.

And nobody ever proposed tearing down the Main Library... let's not start a rumor mill here.

2:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ive heard LIEGH DYER is not from Charlotte and says to People she is close enough . Im from Ohio is that close enough to be considered a Charlottean?

11:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^ This is the second time you've come back after saying you were leaving forever. Third time's a charm?

9:23 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home