City can’t demand advocates split costs for former clubhouse in Las Cruces
I was 13 or 14 years old when I came to the realization that tennis is way cheaper than golf. So, I haven’t spent much time in golf clubhouses. But, I’m certainly aware that those connected to country clubs have a well-earned reputation for racism and sexism.
The Augusta National Golf Course, where the Masters is played every year, didn’t admit its first black member until 1990 and its first female member until 2012. And so, it’s not surprising that when Las Cruces had a country club, it had a similar history.
Now, some in our community want to use that ugly history against the building itself. That doesn’t seem right. It’s a structure; it’s incapable of discrimination.
The local country club closed in 2011, and soon after became an embarrassment on Main Street, greeting newcomers to our city with untended weeds and unwatered, dead trees for far too long.
Developers are finally ready to make that property productive again. That will require removal of the clubhouse, which was designed in 1929 by Trost & Trost Architects and Engineers. A permit has been requested for the demolition.
Those who understand historical architecture better than I do say the building is rare and should be preserved. Mayor Ken Miyagishima has concocted an ill-conceived plan to save the building.
He estimates the total cost to be $290,000, and said the developers were willing to pay what they had budgeted for demolition, $40,000. His plan is for the city to split the remaining $250,000 with those advocating for the building’s preservation.
City officials can’t ask residents to get involved in local government and then charge them for the issues they advocate for. Would we expect those calling for clean energy to chip in every time the city buys a new electric bus?
At a time when the city budget is growing faster than backyard weeds following three straight days of rain (up by nearly $16 million this fiscal year), it seems petty to be quibbling over $125,000.
The larger question is what value does the building have, and what would the total costs be to not only move it but then maintain it. Then, there are the questions of where to put it and what to do with it. Could it become part of our museum system, or would it just end up being a burden?
It’s good that advocates have brought the planned demolition to the public’s attention and forced the city to consider its options.
Having never been inside the building, it strikes me as being fairly ordinary looking from the outside. The fact that Trost didn’t design many clubhouses may increase the rarity of the building, but I’m not sure how much that matters to most folks.
City officials must always be aware that any historic structure lost can never be recovered. But that needs to be balanced against the need for new development.
If city officials decide the old clubhouse has value and can be put to use, they should pay the full costs for that to happen. If not, they should issue the demolition permit.
Walter Rubel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.