One such building in the latter category is the G. G. Green Opera House built in 1880. It takes up a whole city block located on E. Centre and Broad Streets and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 25, 2001. The building, after its heyday as an opera house and theatre, was home to various retail firms but has long been sitting vacant. The earthquake that hit the region on August 23, 2011 brought attention to the Green building and after subsequent inspections and a structural analysis by the National Trust Historic Preservation, the building was deemed unsafe due to the many years of negligence. As a result, the city has been given permission from the Department of Environmental Protection to raze the historic structure. Question is... who is going to pay for it?
Estimates close to a million dollars are now coming back to have this once grand opera house demolished, far more than what was initially expected, and a monetary figure that quickly checks the pro-demolition minded folks who naysayed the idea of investing time and money to restore the building. It doesn't take much imagination to see the old opera house become the center of the town's much needed revitalization efforts. One can easily picture a performing arts center, a museum, a playhouse, artist studios, etc. And with a name like the "Green Building", the city is 10 steps ahead... doesn't everyone want green buildings in their communities these days!? As Preservationist, Victorian Interior Revival founder John Shiflet states, "I can think of 100 communities which would give their eye teeth for a historic Opera House like this one." He goes on to note that, "restoration projects often bring in more jobs and revenue than new construction and often have a catalytic effect that leads to even more historic downtown buildings being restored."
Why then as a community in desparate need for something like this, are we so quick to write off the potential attracting power of this building? They just don't make structures like this anymore and I dread to think what might be put in its place. As it stands, Woodbury has something unique they can call their own, something they can work with to draw the new urbanism* crowds to the community. Woodbury would fare well to adapt the new urbanism approach to city planning and what better way than to get creative with the G. G. Green block. Adaptive reuse is a proven way of making something old, new again and has been shown to work effectively in Woodbury time and again. Just look at the The Woodbury Station Cafe, The Crossings at Woodbury Mews Assisted Living, Charlie Brown's restaurant, The Woodbury Antique Centre, The Chocolatier, and Marlene Mangia Bene Italian restaurant for just a few examples.
For more photos of the building and its interior, past and present, click HERE
Want to help? Here are some suggested actions from Preservationist John Shiflet:
1. Visit http://www.nj.gov/dep/hpo/3preserve/local.htm This page has a wealth of resources related to historic preservation in New Jersey.
2. Organize a "Save the G.G. Green Opera House" or "Friends of the G.G. Green Opera House" online group either on Facebook or Yahoo Groups/MSN Groups.
3. Take out a small ad in your local newspaper asking for interested residents to join the online group, if there is time enough.
4. Contact any preservation-friendly lawyers, former mayor or someone of political influence you can enlist in the cause. If there were time, maybe even someone connected with the entertainment industry could be persuaded to come forward with financial support.
5. Visit http://www.state.nj.us/dca/preservationconference/speakers.html Note the contact information about the New Jersey Historic Trust: 609-984-0473
6. Contact Stephanie L. Cherry-Farmer, MHP Senior Programs Director at Preservation New Jersey
310 West State Street
Trenton, NJ 08618
and lastly contact me here via comments if you have any other ideas!
*The organizing body for New Urbanism is the Congress for the New Urbanism, founded in 1993. Its foundational text is the Charter of the New Urbanism, which says:
We advocate the restructuring of public policy and development practices to support the following principles: neighborhoods should be diverse in use and population; communities should be designed for the pedestrian and transit as well as the car; cities and towns should be shaped by physically defined and universally accessible public spaces and community institutions; urban places should be framed by architecture and landscape design that celebrate local history, climate, ecology, and building practice.New Urbanists support regional planning for open space, context-appropriate architecture and planning, and the balanced development of jobs and housing. They believe their strategies can reduce traffic congestion, increase the supply of affordable housing, and rein in suburban sprawl. The Charter of the New Urbanism also covers issues such as historic preservation, safe streets, green building, and the re-development of brownfield land.