Saturday, April 25, 2015

Older Office Buildings

[I first published this piece in my previous blog Patrick Murtha's Diary in 2011. I am not aware of any changes in the buildings' status.]

I am saddened to read of the dilapidated state of the Peoples Bank and Trust Co. Building (663 Main Avenue) in my hometown of Passaic, New Jersey. It has been vacant for more than two decades, and although redevelopment has been pushed, it has not materialized. The 11 story art deco tower, built in 1931, was beautiful in its prime but is now just a wreck.

There must be so many buildings like this on Main Streets in small cities across America -- the eight story First National Bank Building at 404 N. Main Street in Oshkosh, Wisconsin (1927), comes immediately to mind.

These onetime gems were built for the needs of a different era and are not easily re-purposed; rehabilitation is inexpensive and, in a period of economic decline, possibly foolhardy (it cost more than $2 million to remove the asbestos from the Passaic tower, in anticipation of a sale that hasn't happened). I adore these buildings, but what do you do with them?

Peoples Bank and Trust Company, Passaic, New Jersey

Passaic Bank Tower gamble may not pay off

One option the city never considered was demolition...The building, known as the "Bank Tower" was built in 1931 to house the Peoples Bank and Trust Co. Over the years, law firms, medical offices and professional services have been among its tenants. The tower, with its large, expansive street-level windows, pierces the city's skyline. It has been vacant for two decades. 

"Its historic value, its aesthetic value is extremely important," said Fernandez. "It's the city's history. As a longtime resident of this community, it's something you can relate to the downtown area." Those who grew up in Passaic connect the tower to better days. "It was beautiful, absolutely beautiful," said city historian Mark Auerbach. "It was a destination. It was the jewel of downtown."

First National Bank Building, Oshkosh, Wisconsin

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