"Hey, Lefty, do
you care? Hey, HMSImpossible, do you
care? Hey, Fall River
Community, do you care? Hey, Fall River-tastic, do you
care? Hey, Keri Rodrigues, do
you care? Hey, other Fall River bloggers, do you care? "
The topic in question is whether or not we care if Charlton Memorial Hospital tears down a few nearby buildings in order to create additional parking. What makes this a natural topic for Mondo Lizzie is that one of the dwellings was once the home of Alice Russell. It was Alice who made Lizzie famous by reporting that she saw Lizzie burn an old dress a few days after her father and step-mother were murdered. Lizzie claimed it was stained by paint but the speculation led to the indictment that made her a legend.
Now Alice didn't move to the dwelling at 18 Hillside until many years after the murders. Other than her living there the only real historical interest is just how close it is to Lizzie's French Street home, Maplecroft. Despite the short walk you can bet they didn't visit one another.
Stefani, Mondo's author, doesn't rely on the Borden link to make her case. She also speaks of the irreversible changes that Charlton is making to the neighborhood with its ever increasing expansion.
The problem is parking IS a problem at Charlton Memorial and I can't see of any way for them to increase parking other than tearing down some nearby buildings. Stefani believes they should build up and not out, but there is no way for the Hospital to do that without severely impacting parking during the construction process. The buildings in question do not have any historical value that merits preservation. The Alice Russell link is interesting but not significant and the buildings themselves are hardly a rarity in Fall River.
That said, it shouldn't be this easy for the hospital to tear down two, century old, buildings. Charlton could have addressed some of the concern here by offering the buildings to whomever would move them. It would have been a nice gesture. It wouldn't have addressed the bigger problem, which is responsible development.
Parking at the hospital has been an issue for at least 20 years, even the addition of the current parking garage didn't really eliminate the lack of parking. What makes anyone think that this will solve the problem once and for all? How long before Charlton is purchasing more property to pave?
We, the government and citizens of Fall River, should be asking Charlton is this going to solve all your parking needs? Is this going to keep folks from congesting nearby side streets because there is no available spaces in your lots? Let them come with statistics and schematics. Let them prove that this will meet the need not just for today but for the next 5, 10, 20 years. If they can't we should put pressure on them to expand up. The additional parking they are adding now would help alleviate the pains of construction. And we should also insist that our city put tools in place to better protect all our neighborhoods from irresponsible development.
We need to care about the fabric of our neighborhoods and while at times even history must give way to progress, it shouldn't be done without that progress being carefully considered against what will be lost. Consider the 'progress' made with the creation of I-195. It robbed us of our historical City Hall and buried the very waterfall this city was named for. Consider the historic Academy Building being converted to senior housing when today many in Fall River long for a venue like New Bedford's Zeiterion Theatre. In fact, Fall River's history is filled with examples of development that never attempted to fit in with the fabric of the existing community and never considered the long term impact.
When I was thinking of a title for this post the Joni Mitchell song, Big Yellow Taxi, instantly popped into my head. Obviously, the line "put up a parking lot" stood out and many will scoff at the idea of Fall River being "paradise" But the song speaks of the regret that can follow irreversible change, and perhaps not intentionally, would seem to argue for responsible development.
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot