>Western Tribune Column April 1 2009

>It seems that Bessemer is on the verge of a Spring time renewal of sorts, at least in the historic South Side neighborhood.

Whenever a building is unoccupied, whether it be a church, a school, a home or public housing, there is concern that the structure will deteriorate or become a haven for vagrants or those who are up to no good.

In the historic district we are especially concerned for several reasons. One, the old buildings, while built from sturdy materials with construction methods meant to last, also deteriorate quickly if not properly maintained. Two, because of the historic nature of the structures, they connect us to the past and to our roots. Third, the buildings represent architectural styles that can be mimicked but not reproduced in part because of a lack of skilled craftsmen but also because the lumbar produced today is not as dense or strong as that used a century ago.

So you can imagine the relief felt by preservationists last week when we learned that one of the most notable vacant houses on Clarendon Avenue is being sold to a couple who is interested in preserving its beauty.

Then the community’s spirit was lifted when the Bessemer Board of Education approved the superintendent’s recommendation to sell Arlington School to an individual who already has shown his willingness to restore historic properties. Preservationists have fought for years to save this building, and the Alabama Historical Commission listed the property as one of its “places in peril” in 2003.

These two items of good news came after learning that another historic property, the “neo-classical Revival temple fronted church” formerly known as South Highland Baptist Church, had been purchased and will be used to benefit the community. More about this will be revealed over the coming weeks, but at least we will stop hearing “I hope it doesn’t become another Arlington School.”

Spring time is a season of renewal, no doubt, but what’s renewal without a sense of security?

That is why the fourth item of interest is important. A new police substation is being built on Dartmouth Avenue and our perception is that this will make us safer. Perception of course, is not necessarily reality, but I can’t help but believe that the community will benefit from increased police presence. And when this community, or any community in the city is improved, the entire city benefits.

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