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Milwaukee domes on list of endangered sites

Domes_klh Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park Domes remain closed Tuesday, Feb. 9 for inspections after concrete fell from the support structure of one of the domes. (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park Domes were still closed down in February for inspections after concrete fell from the support structure of one of the domes. (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

By Beth J. Harpaz
AP Travel Editor

NEW YORK (AP) — Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park Domes was named by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington as one of the “most endangered” historic places in the United States.

The National Trust, a private nonprofit, describes the annual list as a way of identifying “important examples of the nation’s architectural and cultural heritage that are at risk of destruction or irreparable damage.” Being listed by the trust as an endangered place can stir up grassroots and political support, as well as money for preservation. Fewer than 5 percent of the more than 250 sites the group has highlighted in the past have been lost.

But the listings are not without controversy. Some projects require enormous spending commitments; others may involve stopping or changing redevelopment proposals. Restoring all three glass-and-concrete domes at Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park, for example, could cost up to $71 million, according to a Milwaukee government website.

The domes closed in early 2016 after county employees had spotted debris that had fallen from at least one of the domes’ ceilings and officials decided visitors could be in danger.

Shortly after the county closed the domes, officials allotted $1 million both for short-term repairs and to make long-term plans for the structures’ future. The short-term repairs consisted of installing mesh netting underneath the domes’ glass ceilings to catch more falling debris.

Since then, two of the domes have been reopened, and the third is expected to reopen in November.

Although their closings happened this year, structural flaws have been apparent at the domes for some time. A 2015 inspection by Graef-USA Inc. found the falling concrete mostly came from the parts of the dome where concrete comes into contact with the structures’ glazing.

Meanwhile in Utah, a majority of state legislators oppose a proposal from a coalition of tribes to designate the Bears Ears area as a national monument, saying that closing the area off to development will hurt the local economy. The National Trust, in contrast, said Bears Ears’ 1.9 million-acre “cultural landscape” of archaeological sites, cliff dwellings and petroglyphs is threatened by “looting, mismanaged recreational use and energy development.”

The trust describes the Embarcadero as an “iconic waterfront” that needs “long-term planning” to cope with rising sea levels and earthquake vulnerability.

Other sites listed by the National Trust as endangered:

—Lions Municipal Golf Course in Austin, Texas, cited as an “unheralded civil rights landmark” as one of the South’s first desegregated municipal golf courses. The National Trust said the site faces development pressure.

—Azikiwe-Nkrumah Hall at Pennsylvania’s Lincoln University, cited as “the oldest building on the campus of the first degree-granting institution in the nation for African Americans.” The empty building now “faces an uncertain future.”

—South Carolina’s Charleston Naval Hospital District, a re-entry point for U.S. servicemen injured in Europe and Africa during World War II. The National Trust expressed concern over a rail line proposed for the area.

—The Delta Queen, a 1926 steamboat in Houma, La. The Trust would like to see the boat return to overnight passenger cruising as a way of “securing” its future.

—The El Paso neighborhoods, Chihuahuita and El Segundo Barrio, where the National Trust says “homes and small businesses are threatened by demolition.”

—Historic buildings in Flemington, N.J., including the Union Hotel, which housed people involved in the 1935 Lindbergh baby kidnapping case, known as the “trial of the century.” The National Trust says the buildings would be demolished under a development proposal.

—The James River in Virginia at Jamestown, where America’s first permanent English settlement was founded in 1607. The National Trust cited a proposed transmission line as threatening the river’s “scenic integrity.”

—A 2-mile corridor of midcentury modern architecture on Tucson’s Broadway Boulevard, which the National Trust says could face demolition for a transportation project.

The National Trust chooses its “most endangered” sites from nominations using three criteria: national significance, urgency and potential solutions, including the strength of local efforts.

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