Thursday, January 10, 2008

Scottsdale postpones decision on Kerr Cultural Center

[Source: Lesley Wright, Arizona Republic] -- Scottsdale's Historic Preservation Commission on Thursday reluctantly gave in to Arizona State University's request to postpone designating the Kerr Cultural Center as an historic property. On her death in 1977, composer and arts patron Louise Lincoln Kerr bequeathed her home and performance hall at 6110 N. Scottsdale Road to the university so famed concerts and programs could continue there.

ASU had asked that the proposal be withdrawn, but came up with a compromise at the 11th hour. If the city withheld an historic zoning overlay, the university would draw up an easement, a legal document that preservation experts said would give the buildings greater protection.

The commission voted 6-0 to continue the item until March 13. "It seems to me we have to be practical and operate in the real world," said Commissioner George Hartz.

It was a disappointment to the crowd of about 40 musicians, professors, and arts lovers. No one who spoke displayed much trust for the ultimate goals of the university, especially after Commissioner Chair Ed Wimmer read part of a letter from ASU's real estate division complaining about the cost of maintaining the adobe buildings in the desert environment.

"Apparently, the new American university does not care much about the old," said Jim McPherson, former president of the Arizona Preservation Foundation, which placed the Kerr Center on the state's Most Endangered Historic Places list last year.

The adobe bricks, handcrafted by Mexican artisans in 1948 and 1959, are a significant part of what makes the Kerr buildings of such iconic significance, preservationists said. Debbie Abele, the city's historic preservation officer, said that the one-story, five-room house and the studio were stunning examples of Spanish Colonial revival -- the signature style of the Southwest.

[Note: Related article in East Valley Tribune:]