One of Cher’s bigger hits is “If I Could Turn Back Time,” and that mindset seems to drive an awful lot of people when it comes to almost any change made in any aspect of life. You don’t have to go far to become engulfed in that thinking – just bring up a something on the local landscape that is different than it was 10 or 20 years ago and the “back in my day” criticisms come cascading down.
The Eddie’s Drive In property sat dormant for years after the diner closed due to a downturn in business as a result of the economic slump. When the closing was announced, local residents overcome with nostalgia surged to the restaurant, and owner George Geotz decided to keep serving up steakburgers due to the renewed interest in Eddie’s. Just a few weeks later, the diner quietly closed for good because the nostalgia effect wore off and the flow of business dwindled.
When local developer Jorge Guevara purchased the plot and announced plans to build an American Family Care health care center, many people celebrated the news while expressing hopes that the diner building would remain standing – even though its setup had absolutely no practical utility for a medical facility. When the building was razed a few weeks ago, cries of “Sedalia’s history is being torn down” went up.
Just a few steps away, a gateway arch to downtown has been erected on Ohio Avenue. It’s a nice addition and the bulk of the funding came from development grants. But it was another case of “different is bad” for a collection of critics. The Democrat’s Nicole Cooke addressed this in a story in October; one business owner basically called the project pointless while another lamented the construction’s impact on her business (the second I see as a fair complaint). On social channels, the criticism was much more pitched and a lot of it boiled down to either “it’s different and I don’t like different” or “the city shouldn’t waste money on downtown,” even though the city paid a fairly small portion of the project’s price tag.
Sedalia’s latest addition has brought a new round of complaints. The new Katy Trail Bridge over Broadway Boulevard was placed this week, and it didn’t take long for residents to blast the cost, the appearance, the timetable for installation, you name it. The bridge is different – all in good ways. It looks modern and its higher clearance means an end to the all-too-frequent blockages caused by trucks getting stuck under the previous span’s 13-foot, 9-inch clearance.
City Administrator Gary Edwards said comments about the bridge coming into City Hall have been about 50/50, “half are strongly in favor of it and half have reservations, mostly about the color.” The ratio was about same on the arch initially, but it didn’t take long for the negative comments to cease.
“We have found that if change is involved, and many communities are in the same category, sometimes it is more difficult to accept,” Edwards said. “But after a relatively short period, people’s concerns disappear – not overnight. … Sedalia is not unusual in this regard.”
In the case of a building such as Eddie’s, if no one wants to buy it and use it for its original purpose or a compatible use, then options are limited.
“There has to be a concerted, organized effort to save as many historically significant structures as possible, but not every one can or should be saved,” Edwards said. Often the choice is whether to put in something new and useful or just let the property stand empty.
“Take the Broadway Arms, look what happened there,” Edwards said. The city now is making plans to demolish the building because it has become a health and safety hazard for community. It’s another case of not being able to turn back time, but moving forward for the better.
“It will be a change for the good of the community, strategic change,” Edwards said.
Bob Satnan is the communications director for Sedalia School District 200.