HOUSE ARREST

When Bruton Stroube Studios sought a new location in the city, they turned to Grand Center Inc. Now the business is stuck with a building they can't afford to renovate but many of their neighbors don't want demolished.

Now the whole matter is in limbo. And Bruton Stroube finds itself owning a building it doesn't know what to do with. "I just felt like we should slow down for a minute and think about everything," Stringer says. "We're considering our options. I really can't say much."

He says he doesn't blame Grand Center for the controversy. The same can't be said for Medler, who says Grand Center ought to find a new site for Bruton Stroube. He blames the agency for failing to learn more about the building's history. "We're not the bad guy," Medler says. "The bad guy is Grand Center. They didn't do their homework; they made no effort to find out anything about this house architecturally or historically. They screwed up real bad, and now they've got egg on their face and don't want to admit it.

"What really bothers me is that Grand Center has been there, in one incarnation or another, for 25 years," Medler says. "In all this time, they've accomplished so little. Of all the large staff they have and all the time they have, why have they never done an architectural survey and historical analysis of these properties? I think it's irresponsible."

Frederick Medler opposes tearing down the house at 3716 Grandel Square: "Grand Center didn't do their homework; they made no effort to find out anything about this house architecturally or historically. They screwed up real bad, and now they've got egg on their face and don't want to admit it."
Jennifer Silverberg
Frederick Medler opposes tearing down the house at 3716 Grandel Square: "Grand Center didn't do their homework; they made no effort to find out anything about this house architecturally or historically. They screwed up real bad, and now they've got egg on their face and don't want to admit it."

In his research, Medler learned that the home was built by Elizabeth Avery Meriwether and her husband, Minor. He was an officer in the Confederate Army and an aide to Jefferson Davis, she a suffragist and friend to Susan B. Anthony. Their son, Lee, was a world traveler and author who knew Mark Twain.

Janese Henry, the house's closest neighbor on Grandel Square, believes Grand Center fell far short of one of its own goals, to show "sensitivity to the history of the neighborhood." Says Henry: "We think there is space available in the neighborhood if Grand Center is willing to be open-minded and look at the options."

Grand Center isn't looking at other options.

Nancy Cambria, a spokeswoman for Grand Center, says 3716 Grandel Square is zoned commercial and that the building is listed neither on the National Register of Historic Places nor as part of the designated historic area in the Grand Center district. She defends the Grandel Square site as appropriate for Bruton Stroube's planned headquarters and says it offered the most "successful piece of contiguous land" in the district. "We try to balance our decisions about preservation and development and look at the long-term picture," she says. Grand Center offered Bruton Stroube a different site across the street on Grandel Square, but the company wasn't interested, she says.

The site the company was interested in was not available, because it had been traded to Fox Associates by Grand Center in exchange for parking lots on Grand. "There is no other property available for them right now," Cambria says, especially given the company's 13-month timetable. "This is the deal we were able to put together for them.

"If that property is allowed to stand, there is nobody that is going to go into that house -- which is vacant. So understand, this house will continue to be an eyesore in the district. We're trying to sit here and make things happen in the district, to really get the daytime population up."

Even after Bruton Stroube withdrew their application for a demolition permit on Friday, Grand Center's position hadn't changed. Cambria issued a written statement, which read: "Grand Center supports whatever action the Bruton Stroube partners take on the building that enables them to create a facility on Grandel Square that accommodates their business."

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