One Year Later: No Walmart at Wilderness, Nebraska State Fair Building Still Stands
Victory at a Civil War Battlefield as Construction Begins near Industrial Arts Building Faces Demolition
By Magazine editors | Online Only | June 13, 2011
This is the third article in a series about America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places of 2010.
In a major victory for the National Trust for Historic Preservation and its allies, Walmart announced earlier this year that it was dropping its plans to build a 240,000-square-foot big-box development on the Wilderness Battlefield, the site of one of the most important battles of the Civil War.
The decision came after years working to persuade the retail chain to relocate its new store and protect the historic place where nearly 30,000 soldiers were killed or wounded during the two-day Battle of the Wilderness in May 1864. This January, Walmart announced it had withdrawn its proposal to build just outside the National Park and would instead work with the local community to locate a new site for development. The new location was identified by Walmart in May, and the Supercenter now will be built three miles away from the National Park.
In a statement following Walmart's most recent announcement, National Trust president Stephanie Meeks said, "The new Walmart location is a win-win solution that benefits the citizens of Orange County, the retailer and the preservation of a nationally significant place. This outcome proves that protecting our national heritage, and advancing Orange County's development goals, can go hand in hand."
Industrial Arts Building
A year after this one-time star of Nebraska's state fair was listed as one of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, the massive, trapezoidal building in Lincoln is still threatened with demolition.
In December, the National Park Service listed the Industrial Arts Building on the National Register of Historic Places, underscoring the historical significance of the 1913 structure while also making it eligible for Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credits.
But last week, the first phase of development at the University of Nebraska campus got under way when Gov. Dave Heineman handed over a ceremonial check from the state by way of the Legislature for $25 million. The investment will fund Nebraska Innovation Campus, a massive research facility planned on the site of the former fairgrounds. The Industrial Arts Building was not mentioned at the meeting.
The university plans to spend $10 million of the $25 million to renovate the east half of the historic 4-H Building (eligible for but not listed on the National Register), and to construct a nearly 100,000-square-foot new complex next door.
"It drives me nuts to see [the university] announce plans for a new 100,000-square-foot building when you have Industrial Arts sitting there with 93,500 square feet of space," says J.L. Schmidt, executive director of Heritage Nebraska. "That money would have gone a lot further in saving the old building. It would have cost about $90 a square foot to renovate; this new building will cost anywhere from $175 to $250 a square foot."
What's more, Schmidt says, is the proposed new construction is in the shape of a trapezoid. Following the announcement, Schmidt says he spoke with the site developer, who told him he would consider reusing the Industrial Arts Building.
In the meantime, the state historic preservation office is waiting to hear from the Federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation regarding the Section 106 review process, triggered after the building was listed on the National Register.
"Hope reigns eternal," Schmidt says. "I'm cautiously optimistic we'll see progress here."
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