Tuesday, April 05, 2005 | The condemnation of properties has not only irked business owners, but also citizens concerned with preserving historical buildings downtown:

The grassroots campaign to save the fountain was launched by the San Diego Historical Society, Save our Heritage Organization and the Gaslamp Quarter Council. The coalition praised the geometric design of Irving J. Gill’s fountain and said Halprin’s design for Horton Plaza’s layout would make the space nothing more than a “doormat” while removing parkland that was scarce downtown, The San Diego Union reported.

Downtown merchants supported Halprin’s design, claiming that vagrants used the fountain for a bath and loitered in the plaza’s open spaces.

After the city was pressured to scrap his design, Halprin said, “I don’t want anything to do with San Diego ever again.” The city eventually adopted a plan similar to Halprin’s original.

– In the late 1980s, the Chinese Mission Church was facing demolition 60 years after its construction on First Avenue to make way for high-rise condos, according to the Journal of San Diego History.

After nearly a decade of protest, deliberation and negotiations, the Chinese Mission’s destruction was averted after the Centre City Development Corp. and concerned residents raised the funds necessary to relocate the church to the corner of Third Avenue and J Street. The San Diego Daily Transcript reported that “not a brick came loose from the 1927-built structure” during its move.

– Karen Huff, chairwoman of the San Diego Black Historical Society, said redevelopment has tainted the spirit of preserving historical landmarks downtown. She pointed to the demolition of the Lillian and Ocie Grant properties on J Street in East Village, cleared to make way for Wakeland Development Corp.’s construction of the Lillian Place Apartments. The Grant properties – at one time the largest property held by Black owners in the state – were doomed for demolition when the City Council voted to uphold a decision by the city’s Historical Resources Board to strip it of its historical designation in April 2004.

Lillian Place will feature an exhibit room showcasing the sites history, but Huff said preserving the property was much more important to the black community.

“They’ve destroyed the black community is what they did,” said Huff, who became involved in supporting historical landmarks downtown after the Douglas Hotel and Creole Palace, a West Coast jazz hub, was torn down in 1985.

Return to part two of Voice’s look at the Centre City Development Corporation

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