Sunday, August 19, 2007

Franklin-stein Monster

The state of the building at 340 Franklin Place is truly shocking.

I went to look for myself last week and it was appalling, starting with the great wall of Dumpsters and ending with the realization that restoring the building at this point would require a fanatical and wealthy preservation buff. The chained door, the empty windows and the missing trim make this once-striking building more than an eyesore.

I used to live on Putnam Avenue and I recall seeing the early stages of the building’s decline. At that point, it was still salvageable. Later it began to crumble and now major portions will have to be rebuilt, not just restored from a structurally sound base.

In those days, roughly around 20 years ago, there were several young investors in the city who took on projects such as renovating the Elks building on Watchung Avenue and the former Runyon Funeral Home on Park Avenue. One owned the three-family that I lived in on Putnam Avenue, but sold it to someone whose neglect caused me to make an emergency move to my present place. The emergency was a third-floor leak that ended up with water sheeting down the walls of the floors below for days. Finally a city inspector came to confirm the conditions, but I had to accelerate my intended move because living there had become untenable.

The landlord showed up at the time of the inspection, but would not come into the building. He sat in his car instead.

It’s a mystery to me why anyone would buy a property and then just let it sink into ruin.

To the Crescent Area residents, the Franklin Place situation is a nightmare and a heartache. With all those 30-yard containers on site, people appear to be adding household trash and cast-off furniture to the mix while the problem of the container removal is being resolved.

Those who are keeping their properties well-maintained and attractive must gnash their teeth at the sight of a nearby hulk that seems to defy both city maintenance codes and historic district standards.

Ironically, a sign on the overgrown front lawn touts a home that is “completely renovated.” One looks from the sign to the building and back again, marveling at the disconnect.

Good luck to the neighborhood association that is pushing hard for resolution of the Franklin Place situation.

--Bernice Paglia


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