The LDS Church wants to replace Provo’s oldest home with a parking lot

The Daily Herald reported Monday that the LDS Church hopes to demolish an 1853 adobe house in Provo. It’s the oldest home in Provo. The reason: more parking, of course.

The building on the right is the oldest home in Provo. The LDS church wants to tear it down and replace it with a parking lot.

The building on the right is the oldest home in Provo. The LDS church wants to tear it down and replace it with a parking lot.

In fairness, the LDS Church didn’t know the building was historic when it decided to raze the building. It has also offered to put the demolition costs toward moving the building.

Unfortunately, the building is probably too fragile to move. And moving it would cost far more money than the church has committed to donate.

It also seems obvious ā€” despite not being mentioned by any of the sources in the Herald article ā€” that dismantling a house and then partially rebuilding it somewhere else saps away much of it’s historic value.

Even more unfortunate is the church’s apparently insatiable appetite for more parking, and its utter disregard for history.

Provo’s Pioneer neighborhoods are some of the most walkable places in Utah. Yes, there are parking problems in these neighborhoods, but they’re due in large part to a refusal to accept street parking as legitimate, overbuilt car infrastructure, and induced demand ā€” or an oversupply of parking that encourages more driving and therefore a need for ever more parking.

Put another way, the solution to Provo’s parking woes is not adding more parking. The church could also probably solve its parking problems by simply better organizing its wards and meeting times. Or, it could encourage members to drive less, walk more, and be environmental stewards.

Adding parking lots to residential neighborhoods also lowers property values, reduces walkability, and has a host of other negative consequences. In other words, tearing down houses to build parking lots is a bad idea even if those homes are brand new. The fact that this home is a singular and irreplaceable piece of history makes the demolition plan all the more abhorrent. (A friend and community advocate shared this post with me, which nicely sums up many of the destructive effects of parking lots.)

The original Provo tabernacle stood beside the site of the current tabernacle/upcoming temple. It's foundation was buried for decades but was uncovered last year. Much of that foundation was destroyed during the temple construction.

The original Provo tabernacle stood beside the site of the current tabernacle/upcoming temple. It’s foundation was buried for decades but was uncovered last year. Much of that foundation was destroyed during the temple construction.

This all comes after the church bulldozed the remains of the original Provo tabernacle last year. I was one of a group of community members who tried to raise awareness about that incident and drum up community support for some preservation effort.

Though I wrote that we partially succeeded, now that everything is said and done it’s clear we didn’t; the church tore up the site anyway and as a token PR move gave a few old foundation stones to the city.

They’re now displayed in the area surrounding the new splash pad in Pioneer Park, devoid of any historical significance or context. How anyone could have thought that was an acceptable solution is beyond me.

(For more on the original Tabernacle and its destruction, read posts here, here, here, here, here and here.)

All of which raises two questions: 1) How many parking lots is the city going to allow, especially in downtown and pioneer neighborhoods, before it puts a stop to this. I know that there are many working for the city who recognize the problems parking lots cause. Many of those people helped me understand those problems, and I don’t understand why, when the information is out there, this continues to happen.

And, more importantly, 2) how much of Provo’s history will the church be allowed to destroy before the community finally decides to step up and do something?

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7 comments

  1. Alan Peters

    Though I’m angered about losing this particular home, I’m more bothered by the LDS Church expanding their parking lots at the expense of any homes, anywhere. These churches seem to have functioned just fine for many years with their existing lots. The cost of doing this must be enormous. All so more people can drive to a church that’s in walking distance?

    Another sad loss with the tabernacle was the boiler room/smokestack. I loved the brickwork on that thing.

  2. Melody

    I am glad they are adding new parking. I go to that church and the parking lot is always overflowing, even though a great majority of people in my ward walk to church.

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