Have you been to downtown Pullman and downtown Colfax? What I see reminds me of Butte, Mont. Lots of short, brick buildings. I was recently in Butte and I noticed a large number of old brick buildings. It got me thinking about Butte. Is it a town that is thriving or is it dying?
Butte was a mining town, but that seems to have largely changed. I wondered what Butte has today that keeps residents employed and people remaining in the town. Based on what appears to be a lack of new buildings being constructed, it doesn’t seem that people are investing in Butte. This is why I wondered whether Butte will survive into the future.
Downtown Pullman and Colfax also are old. The buildings are old and were designed for purposes that have passed. The downtown areas of both towns are divided by state routes.
That is a double-edged sword. It gets vehicles moving through the area which brings customers to the downtown businesses, but it also brings restrictions as to what each city can do.
Far too many people have a misplaced love for these very old and very outdated buildings. They were built at a time when the needs and wants of the community were different than they are today. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying they are all worthless. But the land on which many old buildings exists is scarce.
Pullman has about 21 square blocks in it central business district, which is landlocked by hills and rivers. Not only is it landlocked, it is terrible for the movement of traffic.
There are competing interests which keep solutions from being implemented. Businesses along Grand Avenue don’t want the road expanded because they will lose on-street parking in front of their business. But the traffic is so bad throughout the day that people use alternative routes to bypass the downtown area.
At the Pullman City Council meeting earlier this month, it was proposed that a construction moratorium be enacted while a master plan for the downtown area was completed. It was not well-received and eventually the idea was defeated in favor of a public meeting to allow for comments about how the council should proceed.
As seen in a previous column, I was a proponent for the Evolve on Main building. I think that this is a good direction for Pullman today.
Two-story brick buildings were probably fine in 1920. However, now we are trying to live with old buildings in a new world. Saving downtown buildings because they are 100-years-old is absurd.
Developers should be welcome to come with ideas that will move Pullman into the 21st century. Each property owner should have the ability to decide whether they want to keep their old building or build for the future.
It’s private property and we should welcome the owner’s rights. Any restrictions on tearing down the old and building new must be dropped.
If I had my way, I would raze nearly the whole downtown. The buildings at the base of the hill between State Street and Grand Avenue? Gone. The buildings along most of Main Street and Paradise Street? Gone. I would redesign the traffic flow of the downtown area. Then allow property owners to build for the future.
Building mixed-use structures is great for downtown. Pullman has a good transit system. People can walk to various downtown businesses from their downtown apartments and use buses to get them to central campus or other places around Pullman as needed.
Cities that are moving forward are not filled to the brim with 100-year-old buildings.
Pullman needs to be bold. It needs to allow the old and useless buildings of yesteryear to be preserved only in the history books and in historical photos. Pullman needs to allow a complete redesign of the downtown area that has 2020 vision and beyond.
Scotty Anderson is a computer programmer who enjoys serving the community through various community-oriented service jobs.