Friday, April 18, 2008

Will McGowan Carry the City's Heer's Deal Baton?

Darin Bridges of Springfield had a reader letter in the News-Leader today: Relay incident memorable, in which he recounts dropping the baton (he's writing as though to Coach Vaughan, who was recently honored at the dedication at Shumate Stadium):

"It was the All-City Meet. Our (Hillcrest) mile relay team was favored to take the gold or at least the silver. I was your lead-off guy, and during my fourth stride out of the blocks I dropped the baton. It tumbled all the way to the edge of the track. It was awful....

You called us all together in the middle of the field and we could tell you were fuming. You then yelled for the equipment manager, "Let me see that baton!" It scared the poor kid to death. For a moment I was afraid you might beat me with it. Instead you threw it on the ground and stomped on it. Right there in the middle of JFK. You then picked it up, looked at it, and scolded something like, "I never want to see another one of these NEW batons in the hands of one of my track members again! Do you hear me?" Then you yelled at the other coaches, "Look at how light these aluminum batons are! My boys have been practicing with nothing but steel and on the day of the race we put this #$&! in their hands?!"...

Yeah, the baton was new, lighter aluminum, but we all knew that had nothing to do (with) my dropping it. We knew exactly what you were up to, but no one ever brought the subject up again. We simply moved on to the next race. (Emphasis mine)

The strategy and timing of your demonstration was pure genius. You could have "called-me-out" for such a bone-headed move, but you knew that would hurt our team, and I think you knew what it would do to me...."


I have a purpose for bringing up Mr. Bridges' sports story. I want to apply it to the City of Springfield regarding Park Central Square. Wes Johnson's story in the News-Leader seems a bit like grasping at straws to me, I mean, I'm being honest here.

In Back to square one? Johnson puts forth the challenge of whether Lawrence Halprin can be considered the designer of the square when another architect working in Halprin's firm was responsible for the majority of the architectural drawings. Well, that would be akin to saying that an architect hired by Butler Rosenbury to do work for Butler Rosenbury under the Butler Rosenbury stamp and seal isn't really Butler Rosenbury. It's quite a stretch but I appreciate the sentiment.

I noticed Vincent David Jericho was asking if those who wanted to see Halprin's work preserved could be blamed for a Heer's deal bail out by McGowan's exercise of their put option if the square renovation wasn't on schedule (as specified in their contract on the Heer's with the city) due to the question of the historic value of the square. Well, I don't really think so, these matters should have been considered long ago, before the contract with Kevin McGowan included the stipulation that the square would be remodeled by a certain date, actually, it should have been considered more critically whether it was a good decision for the city to take possession of the Heer's Tower way back when, but we are where we are and sometimes the best thing to do is to take our frustrations out on the aluminum baton rather than the player(s) responsible for the fumble.

Sometimes the best thing to do is to build up the team. I don't disagree with that but I also think that honesty, honesty from the start to the finish, is the best policy. The coach facilitated a "face" save for a young high school team player. It'd be nice if Wes Johnson could facilitate a "face" save through his article, or, if Butler Rosenbury, by stretching to suggest that a signed and sealed Lawrence Halprin design wasn't really a Halprin design because someone else in his firm drew the plans, could pull the city out of this mess but let's not forget that the high school boys on the team, including and especially the young man that dropped the baton knew what the coach was really doing. Our collective intelligence demands it.

We all want to be good team players. We all want the best for Springfield, Missouri and we all understand that we cannot afford to own the Heer's Tower anymore but this bed has been made and it'll be played out and City staff and City Council aren't high school age students dropping a baton at a sporting event. Still...the best thing for Springfield is that Kevin McGowan not exercise his put option even if the play turns out to have been made poorly. We'll just have to see how it comes out and hope that it turns out well in the end. A lot of it depends on Mr. McGowan, will he be a team player? Will he stomp on the baton or will he take his ball and go home? I remember McGowan making comment before the City Council at the public hearing of the Heer's deal on August 27, 2007:

"We're committed to this project and we're committed because we've formed some relationships here in Springfield. We're very much looking forward to get going...."


He said he was committed to renovating the Heer's Tower. Now would be the time to hope he meant it.

4 comments:

tom said...

The city should have never made the redesign of the square as part of the deal, so the blame still resides with the city, elected and those hired to represent the best interest of the city.

Crazy Curmudgeon said...

"In Back to square one? Johnson puts forth the challenge of whether Lawrence Halprin can be considered the designer of the square when another architect working in Halprin's firm was responsible for the majority of the architectural drawings. Well, that would be akin to saying that an architect hired by Butler Rosenbury to do work for Butler Rosenbury under the Butler Rosenbury stamp and seal isn't really Butler Rosenbury. It's quite a stretch but I appreciate the sentiment."

I wouldn't call it a stretch. The center of the whole contoversy is the Square's historical significance: is this the work of a "master". To further your analogy: Say Joe Smith works for Butler Rosenbury and designs a building. The plans for that building are products and property of the company (and client) no doubt. Now say that Joe Smith later in his career, becomes an accomplished and world-known architect. When it comes to historical significance, can that building that Mr. Smith designed as an employee for Butler Rosenbury early in his career be recognized as an early work of a master? Or is the design considered a Geoff Butler design? To use another analogy, if Picasso had a artist under his employ that painted under his direct and close supervision and approval, using his style and influence, would the art world consider that artist's work a Picasso?

There are numerous works that have been well documented that were done by the hand of Halprin directly (the FDR memorial for example) for which he has received his fame. This outdated design we've been stuck with, it seems, is the work of another architect under Halprin's letterhead.

Jacke M. said...

Crazy Curmudgeon, it was just my opinion that it was a stretch, you're welcome to your opinion, which I think is a valid one, by the way. The thing is, it's going to be up to SHPO to decide whether Park Central Square is historical or not and they'll do it under the watchful eye of the National Historical Society, so we'll have to wait and see what is their verdict. Unfortunately, in the meantime, the city may not be able to meet the timeline under their contract with McGowan for breaking ground on square renovations.

I particularly think it's sort of silly to try to place blame at the feet of people who oppose the destruction of the square because of concerns about the historical significance of the design when, with a little foresight, this whole situation could have been avoided. Those concerns should have been recognized and a bit of troubleshooting should have occurred before that time line was set with McGowan. I just think people should be realistic about that and not look to scapegoats to take the blame for it.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking for an opportunity to bash the city, here, what I AM doing is defending people who have what should be considered as legitimate concerns about the historic value of that design. There is nothing wrong with questioning that, and had their been foresight about it to start with these concerns might not have been addressed at the last minute when they might be a deal breaker and end up costing the tax payer even more money on the Heer's building than they're already out.

So, we'll wait and while we wait to see how it pans out we'll hope and pray that Kevin McGowan doesn't exercise his put option. What choice do we have? Not anymore than the Council had when they approved the agreement between McGowan and the city to begin with.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. :)

Jacke M. said...

Oops, Jim. I used "their" when I should have used "there." How'd that happin??? ;)