The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, which owns the Woman’s Club, had intended to restore the vacant building, but the museum dropped that plan and asked the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission to allow demolition of the structure, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
That demolition request met resistance last week from the Riverside Avondale Preservation organization, which persuaded the commission to defer a decision until next month to allow for more study.
“This is a historic district issue,” Adrienne Burke, executive director Riverside Avondale Preservation, told the commission.
While the fate of the Woman’s Club hangs in the balance, the city is assembling a task force that will drill down to examine what steps residents and the city can take to keep Formosan termites from spreading.
The threat of termite infestation is nothing new in Jacksonville, but the sheer size of the Formosan colonies — up to 10 million members per colony compared to 1 million for other subterranean termites — means the Formosan variety can inflict harm at a far faster rate.
“They do much more damage in the same amount of time,” said George Richardson III, technical director for Peninsular Pest Control of Jacksonville.
In New Orleans, for instance, Formosan termites have been blamed for $300 million a year in annual damage, turning the Big Easy into Bug Easy in swarming season.
For Riverside homeowner Randy Brooks, the scariest part of the Cummer Museum’s announcement was it seemed to say that when Formosan termites attack a building, resistance is futile and the only option is demolition — a scenario that strikes at the heart of the neighborhood’s embrace of preserving the past.
“It’s like they [termites] are aliens from another world, and if they get on your property, you are doomed,” Brooks said.
He said based on his research and hearing from people in the pesticide industry, it is possible to control Formosan termites and suppress their spreading. He said he is counting on the task force to come up with workable recommendations so property owners can protect their investments.
“It’s going to take participation from everybody,” he said, “and it’s going to take money.”
By David Bauerlein & Ariella Phillips Mon, May 30, 2016 Florida Times Union
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