For a city faced with old buildings that are eyesores and even safety hazards, demolition may seem like the only option. Decaying facades can compromise the stability, performance and overall value of the entire structure. City planners cannot afford to keep buildings like that standing as-is.

But demolition presents its own set of obstacles. The buildings that tend to fall into these discussions are there because of their age – over time, a combination of factors work against the building materials. However, those older sites are also more likely to be iconic landmarks or beloved local structures. As such, builders cannot in good faith tear the building down. Plus, demolition can be expensive, not to mention erecting another building in its place.

Instead, architects can use restoration methods to breathe new life into old buildings. These products range from exterior coatings to stucco finishes and many others. The best products also have a wide range of aesthetic options so builders can conform a new system to an older style and look.

“Architects can use restoration methods to breathe new life into old buildings.”

New Britain building gets closer to salvation
The abandoned and decrepit Berkowitz building in New Britain, Connecticut will get an opportunity to shine again, thanks to a project proposal that should go through, reported the New Britain Herald. Rather than tearing the building down or leaving it stand as an untenable, useless structure, developers created a plan to revamp the facade and add a retail floor level. The full New Britain city council will vote on the proposition on March 11.

After decades of debates, this project would represent the progress the city hoped to achieve along with its new CTfastrak – a bus transit line from New Britain to Hartford set to open in late March.

“[T]o be able to transform this building and maintain the historic facade will be extra important to the revitalization of downtown in the CTfastrak era,” New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart told the New Britain Herald.

Chamber of Commerce President Timothy Steward added to that: “This building has been a subject of controversy since the 1990s. It’s created discussion every election since that time.”

By investing in its infrastructure and taking measures to clean up dilapidated buildings, New Britain can gradually improve its look and feel. Additionally, the city can avoid costly and distracting demolitions by leveraging exterior wall systems and other restoration tactics.

An example of 20th century modern architecture.
An example of 20th century modern architecture.

Notable architecture needs advocates
In Goshen, New York, another building has been the subject of debate. Paul Rudolph’s Government Center is a textbook example of modern architecture from the mid-20th century, but many critics lashed out against it and want the building torn down, according to the New York Times. However, with the right maintenance and a newly restored facade, the building might win over a few of those naysayers. Liquid-applied barriers that can repel dirt and maintain an airtight seal are great for historic landmarks because they won’t take away from the signature look – in fact, they can enhance it.

Recently, people like Michael Kimmerman of the New York Times have stepped up to fight for the piece of architecture.

“Buildings don’t exist in a vacuum,” Kimmerman said in a Q&A for the Times. “They may be remarkable looking and innovative, but they’re not sculptures. They have to work. They exist on streets, in communities and cities, in the landscape and our daily lives.”

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