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Battle Over Historic Building Heats Up

March 24, 2011

SAN ANTONIO, Texas - The San Antonio Historic and Design Review Commission offered hope this month to West Side residents hoping to save "Casa Maldonado" from demolition. The well-worn, 90-year-old "Pink Building" - known for its faded rose-colored, wood-planked siding - has seen multiple incarnations, including grocery store, radio-television repair shop, union hall and hamburger joint.

Graciela Sanchez, director of the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, says with each torn-down structure, residents of all ages lose a sense of personal investment in their surroundings. Preservation efforts, she argues, also make economic sense.

"You will suddenly have another form of economic development, because people will want to come into that side of town, and see the beauty of what a working-class Mexican-American community is all about."

Empty now, and badly in need of repairs, the Pink Building's current owners are eager to tear it down to build a modern commercial site. The Avenida Guadalupe Association says the struggling, working-class neighborhood would be better served by sensible retail-oriented development, rather than asking investors to spend millions preserving old structures like the "Pink Building."

Sanchez says too many landmarks of the past are already gone. She believes wealthier neighborhoods get more support for historic preservation - not only because they have more money, but because policy makers tend to think of their histories as more important.

"Everyone's history counts. Just because you were raised poor and working-class doesn't mean your history gets to be erased."

After hearing pleas from the public, the commission endorsed Esperanza's efforts to deem Casa Maldonado "historically significant." The city council takes up the commission's recommendation on April 21, when it will decide whether to allow the owners to tear the building down.

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX