LETTER- Rubble belies 'green' claims

And so the Jefferson Scholars Foundation has created what politicians and military strategists call new "facts on the ground." Those facts take the form of rubble, a large pile of which rises at 124 Maury Avenue where the historic Compton House once stood ["Demolition fall-out: Lost chance or new beginning?" OnArchitecture, January 10]

The building came down in a hurry. A bulldozer drove into it from all sides, its operator so eager to get the job done that he shattered the vehicle's windshield in the process. All this happened two days after Christmas, ensuring minimum visibility. And yet, sobering as the result may be, it still seems less striking than the arrogance and bad faith that led to the building's demise. 

I'm still mystified by how the JSF secured $18M in public bonds for a project of such dubious public benefit. And I'm still galled by the brazen inconsistencies. The JSF insisted that the Compton House was unusable but offered no credible supporting evidence. The group told City Council that no settled plans existed for the site, but in fact they had already shown plans to the UVA Alumni Association. And the group sought another $3M in bonds from City Council, only to retreat when asked for demonstrable signs (as opposed to pious assertions) that preservation had been explored as an option.

No part of the building was salvaged. At this point almost nothing is salvageable. Doors, windows, interior and exterior columns, even the vast Spanish-tile roof all poke up in pieces from the mound. You'd think Habitat for Humanity didn't exist. But what's truly astonishing is this: after all that's been said and done, the JSF and their accomplices at VMDO Architects remain dedicated to the obscene proposition that this will be a "green" project. Can a new building compensate for the pointless destruction of the old one– a building as structurally sound as it was historically significant? Can the hours of human labor and tons of materials that were expended on the Compton House be so easily greenwashed into oblivion? 

The Jefferson Scholars Foundation is not technically part of UVA but is supported by alumni donations. Well, my fellow alumni, here are our gift dollars at work. Let's give early and often, knowing the County will match us dollar for dollar and thanking God the JSF isn't governed by the Honor Code. I'm sure Mr. Jefferson would approve.

Aaron Wunsch