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Rusty Saber

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By Joe McAdoo

It's the fair thing to do.

I wrote a column awhile back taking Wal-Mart to task because of its intent to build a new supercenter at the intersection of East Sunshine and Blackman Road. I also reported on the almost universal opposition to the project by area property owners.

At the time, Wal-Mart seemed to ignore the pleas of many neighbors that, even without a supercenter on that site, the area is a traffic nightmare; with one, a new definition would be forged for traffic gridlock.

If I can criticize, I can praise. Fair is fair.

Wal-Mart recently announced that it no longer plans to build on that site. The company executives not only heard the complaints of the people, but they listened! I salute the people at the grassroots who spoke up about the traffic problems the supercenter would have created and I salute Wal-Mart for listening. This grassroots democracy stuff actually works, sometimes.

The specter of a supercenter at that corner is gone; now someone must decide what to do with it. If I were asked for an opinion (which won't happen), I'd say: "Don't do anything with it. It's a lovely grove of trees; leave it alone."

Surely every square foot of land doesn't have to be bulldozed to make way for plastic buildings and parking lots.

Alas, I know something will be built there. The owner has a perfect right to develop the land. However, if you ask me (there I go again), whatever goes there should not create 24-hour-a-day gross traffic flows. This would be a great location for small businesses or an office complex.

Rather than hire Scorched Earth Construction Inc. to build whatever goes there, why not plan construction whereby some trees are maintained as part of a landscaping plan.

Potential builders on the East Sunshine and Blackman Road corner need only look directly across Sunshine at the Darrco Building, a perfect example of an office complex built among a pristine growth of trees.

The building sits far back from the street, with many of the original trees maintained to create a scenic park-like buffer between it and the heavily traveled street. I don't know much about what goes on in the Darrco Building, but I do know the builders were thoughtful enough to not decimate the countryside, creating just one more roadside eyesore.

The Sunshine-Blackman Road grove of trees is among the few unspoiled sites left in the city. I just hope whoever eventually builds on the site will keep traffic and urban blight in mind as plans are made.

If you ask me, an award should be created to go to businesses doing what the Darrco builders did, keeping in mind the scenic environment. (No one asked me, but as you can see, that doesn't stop me from giving my opinion.)

The award might be called the Good Builder Award. it would go to a business either constructing a new facility or renovating an old one that especially enhances the beauty of the community. The aforementioned Darrco Building is an example of a new building.

I can think of no better example of the tasteful renovation of an old building than the office headquarters of this newspaper, SBJ. The renovation of the lovely old downtown building helped maintain a past that is too rapidly disappearing. Businesses completing such projects could be eligible for an award.

SBJ could have torn down the building and replaced it with a modernistic plastic-and-glass palace, or bulldozed some trees and built on a site elsewhere. By renovating the existing building, a lovely downtown historic landmark was preserved, and the staff has adequate, aesthetically pleasing work space.

I think it would be nice to give awards to businesses meeting their goals without adding to urban blight. Maybe some organization out there will pick up on my award idea and create it.

Until then, the Rusty Saber will honor Good Builders when they come to my attention. Readers, send me the names, locations and descriptions of Good Builders. Be it renovation or new construction, send your recommendations to Rusty Saber in care of SBJ.

For now, my Good Builder Award goes to Wal-Mart for not building something.

(Joe McAdoo is former chairman of the communication department at Drury College and a Springfield public relations consultant.)

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