Wednesday, May 08, 2013

The Masterplan

In my sleep deprived post election daze I've solved all our problems in one masterplan.

A certain faction of yesterday's No vote was persuaded on the merits of the justice center but disliked the architectural specifics of a new wing attached to the old courthouse. Don't damage the view, they said.

What no one was willing to say, very openly anyway, is that old courthouse is a white elephant, both beautiful and useless. Occasionally folks would say "it should be a museum."

Which is fine. But who pays for it to be a museum? Here's where we get creative.

Last week FEMA put the last nail in the coffin for funding of a new UI Art Museum. The federal actuarial tables say the current art museum can be repaired. Problem is, no one will insure the $500 million art collection in a building on the flood plain. See where I'm going yet?

The old jail is landlocked and can't expand. Who owns the land around it, that big flat parking lot? The University.

So the University owns a big flat lot, below the skyline, downtown. The County owns a building better suited to a museum than a courthouse on the top of a hill. The county needs a place, the university needs a museum. Deal? Wouldn't the Pollock look nice in the big courtroom? And the old flood zone art building could be repurposed as the Wendy O. Williams Memorial Department of Performance Art.

I don't have all the little details like, oh, square footage. And there's a contingent arguing for a non-downtown justice center, though I think a move from downtown costs more support than it gains (the lawyers want it downtown because that's where their offices are).

This is more an excercise in creativity than an actual plan. But I'll say this: Before we try this again the county needs more buy-in from University. And the city, and the state and federal legislators. Especially the city. They all need skin in the game, they all need to spend a little political capital.

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