It will never be remembered with the same impact as the razing of the Berlin Wall, but Saturday's dismantling of the plywood shack on the front of the former Roberti Building on Liberty Street was a welcome sight.
The protective woodwork, which had given an otherwise nice downtown street a shanty-town chic, is now gone. It is true that the otherwise lovely storefront beneath still needs substantial work and some additional glass pieces, but at least the stroll from Second to Third avenues along the west side of Liberty doesn't require a detour and the mandatory glance at a monument to a failed dream.
We applaud the efforts of Warren City Council, the Warren Foundation, Warren Main Street and countless others in their work to salvage something from an abject failure. We would like to single out in particular City Councilman Howard Ferguson for injecting a calm, goal-oriented presence when pitched battles were being fought with pointing fingers as weapons.
The most important aspect of the work bee that occured Saturday is that the property at the center of a nagging controversy is taking tiny steps toward resurrection.
And, sometimes tiny steps are the most firm.
The Alleheny Center for the Arts (the building, not the organization) was born with a grand plan costing hundreds of thousands of dollars and requiring hundreds of thousands in government support. It could be argued that the plan was just too grand, and its grandiosity doomed it to failure.
We hope that what happens next is a continuation of the slow and steady progress that sometimes wins a race, but almost always finishes it. No grand plan this time, but rather the methodical, step-by-step development of a very nice downtown building.
The people of this city have yet to see the results of the state's fiscal monitoring review of the half-million dollars that was earmarked for the project that ended barely half done. The report, completed earlier this year and apparently in the hands of city officials, is "confidential," according to a Department of Economic and Community Development spokesman. It was the DCED which gave the city $500,000, which was to be loaned to the ACA building project and then repaid from rents.
While the physical mess left behind is being slowly cleaned up, the fiscal mess remains.