For over a week, dozens of homes lining West Broadway have prominently displayed blue and green signs reading “Save Historic Broadway.”
The signs are a response to a new development at the northeast corner of West Broadway and West Boulevard proposed by local doctor Mohammad Jarbou. The development would require tearing down three houses, two of which are in the West Broadway Historic District.
The houses at 919 West Broadway and 14 West Boulevard were both built in 1925; 917 West Broadway was constructed in 1902. Both of the Broadway houses are part of the West Broadway Historic District, a neighborhood of about 70 houses that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Jarbou has proposed to the public a multi-use space with a medical building, an office space and a 40-stall parking lot. The development would require the three plots of land to be replatted, or combined into one, and rezoned from residential to mixed use.
Jarbou owns the three homes, which he leases to tenants.
Columbia residents like Louis Wilson, who has lived on West Broadway for almost 20 years, are turning out in full force against this change.
“There is virtually no neighborhood desire — I would say 0% desire — for the destruction of these three historic neighborhood properties,” Wilson said.
Wilson, the communications director for the Historic West Broadway Neighborhood Association, is concerned for the preservation of the historic American architectural styles of the neighborhood. The style is a big part of Columbia, he said, and neighborhood developments throughout the city work to mirror the “texture and fabric that’s hard to duplicate.”
“We’re not a city that has century-old houses to throw away,” Wilson said. “People are very concerned with saving the few we have left.”
Jarbou plans for his development to match the feel of the neighborhood, according to Keenan Simon, a civil engineer working on this project for Simon & Struemph Engineering. Simon gave a presentation at a public interest meeting in April which emphasized their intent to mimic the neighborhood’s structural style.
About 60 people attended the meeting from five different neighborhood associations, Wilson said. Even after a similar neighborhood input meeting on Tuesday, he said he’s not convinced.
“They may have great intentions to match the look of the neighborhood, but it’s still an office park,” Wilson said. “It’s not a neighbor. At night, it’s just a few lights in a parking lot. It’s not someone you can get a cup of coffee with.”
Although the planned development would require demolishing the historic houses, there is still another option. Simon said that Jarbou is accepting offers on the three houses.
“(Jarbou) realized this was a contentious project after the initial community meeting and felt it was necessary to give anyone the opportunity to purchase the homes at a fair market value,” Simon wrote in an email. “His intent would be to sell all three rentals as a package deal so he could relocate his efforts in a new area.”
Wilson recognizes the efforts that Simon and Jarbou have exerted to communicate with West Broadway residents. But the neighborhood, which begins at this intersection, has acted for decades as a “historic gateway to the city,” and that type of “visual capital” is irreplaceable, Wilson said.
“If you let (people) redevelop an old historic street ... it’s Disneyland without the effort,” Wilson said. “You’d almost have to have Hollywood set builders to recreate that.”
Supervising editor is Libby Stanford.