A Real-Estate History Lesson

Says Boul: "We've got the best chance with Balke. We're way down the road with Balke and we're not going to change directions now."

The last part of that statement is pretty believable, seeing as how the city hasn't changed directions (that would be south) over the past decade. Just listen to the city's top development official today, Mike Jones, sounding so much like his predecessor of 10 years ago and saying nothing that couldn't have been said at that time.

"There are no comparable building sites like this in the city," Jones said. "It's a large amount of ground with easy access to two major highways. It's five minutes from downtown. Ten minutes from Clayton ... in the middle of the metropolitan area in terms of labor pool.

"If it can't be developed within a reasonable time frame, and I think five years is reasonable, then I would say that the last one out of the city needs to turn off the lights."

If the history of the Arena project tells us anything, it's that Jones shouldn't be making gratuitous statements like that. And Harmon shouldn't be closing his mind to anyone's good ideas -- including those that would save the historic structure -- until he has more than the good intentions of a small developer in his hands.

The city should take the Gateway Foundation's gift and then take a deep breath. If Balke can produce some real-life major tenants for his deal before Cassilly, Wofford or other dreamers can get solid money behind theirs, maybe a case can be made for razing the Arena.

But tear down a landmark in excitement over an unproven development plan?
History is not on your side.

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