All posts in Preservation

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Brothers to Brothers

Downtown L.A.'s Barker Brothers building to be restored to former glory
You may not find much to look at if you venture to the middle of Broadway between 7th and 8th Streets in Downtown Los Angeles' Historic Core. A barricade and opaque scaffolding currently block the tired remains of the Barker Brothers building, an eight-story structure built by real estate investor Clara Burdette in 1909 and one of the oldest of its kind in the district. Though it was the largest store in the Barker Brothers furniture chain at the time of its completion, the company shut its doors in the 1940s like many nearby retailers who migrated from downtown to the burgeoning Wilshire Boulevard. Thanks to brothers Ted and Oliver Grebelius of British real estate firm Satila Studios, the Barker is returning to its former glory over 80 years later. The duo recently bought the building with a plan to retrofit it as a mixed-use development and rebrand it as the Barker once again. The roughly-46,000 square feet of space constituting the upper six floors of the structure will be designated for commercial offices, while the 11,000-square-foot ground floor will be entirely dedicated to street-facing retail. The original floor plates have determined the number and ceiling heights of the floor plates, meaning the majority of the office spaces will likely be over 12 feet tall and supported by the building's existing structural columns. A significant amount of the retrofit will include the preservation of the building's original detailing and material palette of brick, steel, and dark wood flooring. Satila Studios is particularly invested in the preservation of its iconic grand stairway, including its large-scale archways and wooden columns, located in the center of the ground floor. The Barker is just one of many early-20th-century buildings in the L.A.'s Historic Core that are undergoing renovation. The adaptive reuse of the Lane Mortgage Building, a 12-story structure designed in 1923 by local architect Lester Loy Smith, is already underway half a block from The Barker. Satila Studios expects the building will open by 2021.
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Forever Mikyoung

Mikyoung Kim and DiMella Shaffer will design Boston's first LGBTQ-friendly senior housing facility
  Boston will get its first LGBTQ-friendly senior housing facility, designed by Boston-based architecture firm DiMella Shaffer and landscape architecture by Mikyoung Kim Design. On November 13, the Public Facilities Commission voted to convert Hyde Park’s former William Barton Rogers Middle School, a 120-year-old building, into a 74-unit complex for mixed-income people age 62 and up, including units for homeless seniors.  The facility, which is the city's first of its kind, will provide staff and residents with training to ensure an LGBTQ-friendly environment. However, the complex will be open to all seniors with none set aside specifically for LGBTQ people, as anti-discrimination laws require. The news coincides with the opening of the Marvel Architects-designed, first LGBTQ-friendly affordable senior housing facility–the largest in the country–in New York City, and represents a growing recognition of the need for housing among this demographic.   The $32 million renovation will be developed by Pennrose Holding LLC in partnership with the nonprofit LGBTQ Senior Housing organization, with funding coming from a combination of public money and private loans. According to The Boston Globe, the 98,000-square-foot former school building will be mostly preserved. Additions and updates will include an outdoor courtyard as well as a community space, and an art gallery showcasing the Civil War-era 54th Infantry Regiment of Hyde Park, which was made up of volunteer African-American soldiers fighting for the Union. Pre-existing amenities such as the school gymnasium will be renovated to hold indoor physical activities.  “With the housing boom Boston has been witnessing, we need to ensure housing for our seniors, especially for the underserved LGBTQ community,” said Philippe Saad, Associate Principal at DiMella Shaffer. “Innovative partnerships like this one will serve as a model for opportunity. It paves the way towards integrating older adults in their community by  providing spaces that are inclusive and multigenerational by design. This project will also further the city’s age-friendly initiative and Imagine Boston 2030 as we head into 2020.” The development is significant for addressing the needs of a twice-vulnerable population. According to the City of Boston’s Commission on Affairs of the Elderly's 2014 “Aging in Boston” report, four-in-ten senior Bostonians live on household incomes of less than $25,000, and half experience a high-cost burden of housing. For LGBTQ seniors, this is compounded by the issue of finding safe and accepting housing situations.  “The number one issue for LGBT seniors is housing. There’s a huge panic about where we’re going to go when we can’t take care of ourselves,” Bob Linscott, assistant director of the LGBT Aging Project at Fenway Health told The Boston Globe. "There’s a big fear of going to a place where people will be bullied and harassed by the same people who bullied and harassed them decades ago.”
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Window Wars

Marcel Breuer's iconic Atlanta Central Library denied historic designation
Any hope left to landmark the Marcel Breuer-designed Atlanta Central Library may have been diminished this fall when the National Parks Service declared the Brutalist building ineligible thanks to the ongoing $50 million renovation.  The library has been a source of strain in the preservation world for years. At one point in 2016, its future hung in the balance as the city of Atlanta sought to potentially demolish the building. Since then, advocates have tried, and failed, to get the city to pass legislation that would save the building’s iconic exterior. Instead, construction crews began drilling into the concrete facade this summer, creating holes for what would be a set of windows across the minimal facade. Atlanta-based design firm Cooper Carry is leading the revamp. Below, the yellow construction paper is where the new window glass will be:  The renovations were mandated by Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System, which has been sprinting to update its structures and build new libraries throughout the city. For too long, the Central Library itself hasn’t been full of activity; the building isn't considered user-friendly largely because its interior lacks enough access to natural light. The library was opened in 1980 at the height of Brutalism's popularity, which has sharply fallen in recent years as more and more such structures across the U.S. face similar tough fates Curbed Atlanta reported that an attempt by Docomomo Georgia to designate the library on the National Register of Historic Places was declined this fall “since the property is currently undergoing rehabilitation and alterations.” As Curbed noted, Docomomo can resubmit the bid once the project is complete, but even if it had secured a historic designation prior to the window work, it’s likely the changes would have still been made due to public demand. 
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Put a Cork in it

One of Los Angeles's last Googie-style buildings to close, signaling unknown future
On December 8, the Facebook page for Corky's, a diner completed in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Sherman Oaks in 1958, announced that it will be closing its doors by the middle of the month following a lease dispute. The post lamented the treatment historic architecture receives in the city, stating that "Landlords just don’t appreciate these unique-style buildings and design.” Designed by Armet & Davis, one of the most prominent firms designing Googie architecture during the post-war period throughout Los Angeles, Corky's iconic roofline, playful neon signage, and stony facade make it an exemplary building of the popular, yet short-lived, style. Since the building first opened as Stanley Burke’s in 1958, the structure has survived the changing of hands and the decades of extensive remodeling that came with it. Corky's interior is notable for its extensive use of wood-paneling, overstuffed green booths, and speckled drop ceiling. Only a small handful of the Armet & Davis's buildings still survive that exemplify the same exuberant Googie style, including Johnie's Coffee Shop across from LACMA, and the iconic Norm's on La Cienega. The building's current owners are urging fans of the building to encourage city leaders to make Corky's a Los Angeles landmark before its next owner potentially decides to demolish it, while Alan Hess, a local architectural historian and preservationist, has personally submitted a Historic-Cultural Monument application to the City of Los Angeles. "Unlike the prevailing examples of high Modernism," Hess wrote in Googie Redux in 1986, "Googie was rarely boring. Its key features—futuristic details, expressive use of new materials, metal-frame structures that allowed seemingly weightless canopies and free-flowing spaces—elicited the fluidity of the Modern era." As of yet, there are no demolition permits have been filed with the city, potentially indicating that the exuberant structure could be here to stay, regardless of its tentative landmark status.
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Demerits for Demolition

Preservationists fight to save Midtown Manhattan's 19th-century Demarest Building
Another prominent Midtown Manhattan building could be demolished and replaced with a 26-story mid-rise tower.  The Demarest Building, a 19th-century, iron-framed structure on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 33rd Street, has long been loved for its three-story-high arched windows and unique history as a high-end horse carriage showroom and later as the home of the world’s first electric elevator. Its owners, Pi Capital Partners, filed an application for the new building this summer but have yet to begin the paperwork for a demolition permit, according to amNewYork Over the past few years, preservation groups have tried without success to stop the project. They worry that, if destroyed, the Demarest Building would be a major loss for the city, given its architectural and technological legacy. It was designed in 1890 by local firm Renwick, Aspinwall & Russell, the practice of St. Patrick’s Cathedral architect James Renwick Jr., and built by Aaron T. Demarest, a prominent carriage and automobile manufacturer. The then-upcoming Carnegie Hall was thought to be the design inspiration for the light-orange Beaux Arts building, though it’s unlikely since they were built around the same time.  Preservationists are set to gather today at 10:30 a.m. at a rally on-site (339 Fifth Ave.) to protest the Demarest's potential demolition. The event is co-organized by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, which has repeatedly appealed to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to designate the building as a local landmark and has launched a petition (here) to save the building. The LPC claims its exterior has been altered too much since opening nearly 140 years ago.  Andrew Berman, the organization’s executive director, told amNewYork that despite any changes, the Demarest Building is particularly significant given its age and because it’s a “great link to New York’s commercial past and its development as the commercial capital of the world.”  Situated blocks away from Penn Station and near Herald Square as well as the Empire State Building, the structure is and has always been a cornerstone of activity. While now the ground floor contains a Wendy’s, a souvenir shop, and a money exchange, the upper portion of its tan brick facade—with its terra-cotta panels and detailing—has remained architecturally iconic, preservationists argue ,and should be saved. 
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Fire Sale

L.A.’s historic Streamline Moderne Firestone Tire Building will be adaptively reused
Firestone Tire and Service Center, an anonymously designed Streamline Moderne building servicing a countless number of Los Angeles’ cars under its sleek roofline since first opening in 1938, shut its garage doors to the public in 2016. The disused building can currently be seen partially boarded up on the corner of 8th and La Brea in Los Angeles’ Miracle Mile, eagerly awaiting a new function. On December 6, it was announced that two companies have come together to transform the Firestone Tire building into a unique eating and drinking destination. Pouring With Heart, a local nightlife and hospitality company that operates several bars in the area, has plans to open up a brewery using 13,000 square feet of the original building’s interior, and will likely name it All Season Brewing Company. And, after demonstrating success with their restaurant sited in Downtown Los Angeles, Chicas Tacos has agreed to take over the remaining floor area of the building. The decision to adaptively reuse a building from the city’s early days of automobile servicing has become a common one throughout Los Angeles in the last decade. The 1972 oil crisis led to the closure and/or demolition of hundreds of gas stations and service centers throughout the city, and only a small handful of them have gained new life while holding onto their old-world charm. Gilmore Gas Station, for example, a Streamline Moderne building designed by engineer R.J. Kadow in 1935, became a drive-through Starbucks in 2015. The Firestone Tire building project is being overseen by local interior design studio M. Winter Design and is set to be completed by early 2020. From the renderings, it appears as though the renovation will include the building’s original rooftop lettering, fluorescent lighting, baked porcelain cladding and, of course, its iconic roofline while maintaining industrial interior flourishes.
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Restoring the Ruins?

Russia and Syria announce joint project to restore ancient city of Palmyra
Earlier last week, Russian and Syrian officials announced that they would team up to restore the National Museum of Palmyra. Mikhail Piotrovsky, director of the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia, oversaw the signing in Damascus between the Hermitage, Institute for the History of Material Culture of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM).  Located in the northeast of Damascus, Palmyra contains the monumental ruins of what was once a great oasis city in the Syrian desert nest known for being one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the architecture of this civilization often combined Greco-Roman and Persian influences with local traditions. However, the site had been targeted for deliberate destruction by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and in 2014, much of the city and nearby historic religious buildings were damaged. Over the course of 2015, ISIL (also referred to as ISIS) destroyed the ancient Lion of Al-lāt statue, The Temple of Baalshamin, The Monumental Arch, and the Tower of Elahbel, among many other historic sites. A statement posted on the Hermitage’s website states: “Both agreements are a tangible step in the significant development of museum and research ties between Russia and Syria,” according to The Art Newspaper. The goals of the agreement include a collaborative effort between the Hermitage and the National Museum of Oman to restore 20 Syrian antiquities from Palmyra, followed by the later restoration of the city as a whole, which is still suffering from the damage created by ISIL. Representatives from UNESCO, DGAM, and the Aga Kahn Foundation will also form an advisory group for the campaign and work with the Hermitage to restore the selection of artifacts.  Piotrovsky said that restoring the museum is the first step and is “of particular value for the entire complex,” but reiterated that the ultimate goal of preserving the ancient city will be quite a process and, “we are preparing for the day after tomorrow, it’s not yet possible to do anything tomorrow.” However, this is far from the first attempt at preserving Palmyra's history; numerous attempts have been made to scan and recreate the structures and artwork found there, including creating a digital archive.
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Currying Favor

Currier Museum of Art acquires a second Frank Lloyd Wright home
New Hampshire’s Currier Museum of Art announced on November 14 that they will be adding a second Frank Lloyd Wright house to their permanent collection, making the institution the sole museum in the world to own two of “America’s most important architect’s” buildings.  The Toufic H. Kalil House is one of seven Usonian Automatic homes ever built and was put on the market this past September for $850,000. An anonymous donor provided the museum with $970,000 in funds to acquire the property and make it accessible to the public.  “This generous donation is a tribute to the philanthropy in our state, and serves as an example for others,” said Steve Duprey, president of the museum’s Board of Trustees, in a press release, which went on to say that with “the impending sale of the Kalil House, there was a real danger that it might be altered, moved away, or even torn down.”  The house is located at 117 Heather Street in Manchester, New Hampshire, and was built in 1955 with Wright’s patented technique of individually-cast interlocking concrete blocks reinforced with rods set into the walls and roof. The system stemmed from Wright’s larger vision for more democratic design and planning of modern architecture for middle-class America. Such houses were designed with the idea that home buyers could construct the homes themselves out of a kit.  Wright designed approximately 60 homes under the name “Usonian” including the seven Usonian Automatics. The term was used throughout his work to refer to the United States, as opposed to the term America, which of course also includes Mexico and Canada. For Wright, Usonian architecture was to be set apart from all previous “American” architectural conventions specifically.  Usonian houses, including the Kalil House, were typically small, single-story dwellings with an L-shaped plan. They made use of natural light, local materials, flat roofs, and radiant floor heating. The Kalil House, a 1,406-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom house meets all of these requirements and, according to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, still includes much of the architect’s original furniture, textiles, and kitchen appliances. The house’s mahogany clad interior is illuminated by 350 individual glass windows, both fixed and operable.  While many of the features have been maintained, the house has also received updates to the roof, landscaping, and back patio. An unfinished, 264-square-foot guest home is located behind the house and was constructed in the same modular construction technique.  The Kalil’s were inspired to build the home after seeing their friend’s FLW-designed home just three doors down the street. The Zimmerman House was also acquired by the museum in 1988 as noted in the owner’s will, alongside an operating endowment for the building's maintenance.  Currier Museum’s director, Alan Chong stated in the press release, “Although they are about the same size and on the same street, the Zimmerman and Kalil houses are very different in character... Frank Lloyd Wright intended his Usonian designs to be affordable to the broader American public, but each is a distinctive work of art.” Just like the Zimmerman House, the Kalil house will be preserved and opened up for guided tours next April.
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Pop-Up Pop Art

Camille Walala rejuvenates an Arkansas gas station from eyesore to icon
French artist Camille Walala descended on Fort Smith, Arkansas, to flip a disused 1950s gas station into an unexpectedly bright piece of public art. Nestled on a sharp corner joining two boulevards, Walala and the women-led creative house Justkids saw an opportunity for a low-budget but high-impact project and needed little more than cans of colorful paints. “I love this canvas,” said Walala, “it was exciting to do something really bold, that stands out on a bigger scale.” Using joyful geometric designs rendered in contrasting primary colors, Walala exercised her signature hybrid style over the space by using a mix of tribal-inspired bold patterning and Pop Art color palettes. The result is a social hub for the town that also serves as a visual landmark, and its success is a reminder that urban regeneration doesn’t necessarily need to be built from the ground up. This unique approach to urban planning is at the core of Justkid’s mission, aligning with their goals to “propel place-making by delivering art experiences that create a unique sense of community.” Since the house’s founding in 2014, Justkids has completed over a dozen projects around the world, emphasizing color and playfulness in each collaboration. The gas station was reimagined thanks to the help of many local volunteers, many of them teenagers, as well as a collaboration with local artist Nate Meyers. The curator of Justkids, Charlotte Dutoit, commented on the transformation saying, “After five years of curating diverse visual projects in Fort Smith, I learned that a big part of good place-making is creating community and a sense of re-discovery of the beauty that is there, in the city, all along, and Camille’s work does just that.”  This spirit of architectural preservation and the re-presentation of history is not only socially impactful but also sustainable, offering a second chance for forgotten or unloved architecture across the country. This collaboration with a visual artist to actively rejuvenate a space, and not only stamp landmark protections on preservation documents, incited real change for the community and sets a precedent for future projects worldwide. In just one week, Walala was able to synthesize inspirations from the Memphis movement to the women of the Southern Ndebele tribe and make a lasting impression, with only a formerly placeless intersection as her canvas. 
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Fiery Debate

General in charge of Notre Dame restoration spars with chief architect
The drama surrounding the damaged Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, Europe’s most visited monument, continues to build as the French government debates the fate of the cathedral's befallen spire. The National Assembly’s cultural commission was convening last week to discuss the renovation when General Jean-Louis Georgelin, appointed to spearhead the project by French President Emmanuel Macron, suggested chief architect Philippe Villeneuve should “just shut his big mouth.”  The animosity is due to disagreement over the direction of the $1 billion restoration project. The devastating fire in April, whose cause is still under investigation, completely destroyed the mid-19th-century timber-and-lead spire and the majority of the medieval wooden roof, and President Macron announced an international design competition for a contemporary replacement soon after. Despite the passage of a bill in May ruling that the Notre Dame restoration must maintain the original design, the fate of its spire still appears up in the air. Chief architect Villeneuve, meanwhile, has made his opposition to anything short of an identical reconstruction clear. “I will restore it identically and it will be me, or they will build a modern spire and it won't be me,” said Villeneuve in an interview with the French radio station RTL last month. He invoked the 1964 Venice Charter, which requires restorations of historic buildings to retain their original architectural and historic value.  General Georgelin was unequivocal when questioned by members of parliament, only confirming the President’s ambitious plan to complete the project by 2024, the same year the city will host the Summer Olympics. He promised to "move ahead in wisdom so that we can serenely make the best choice for Notre Dame, for Paris, for the world," reported The Art Newspaper. Nevertheless, construction on the roof and spire and cosmetic changes cannot begin until the cathedral's structure is fully stabilized. The building’s burnt scaffolding, which was erected for renovation work prior to the April fire, has yet to be dismantled for reconstruction to begin. France’s Cultural Minister, Franck Riester, announced last month that the scaffolding removal would begin imminently. However, this process alone could take four months according to Christophe-Charles Rousselot, head of the Notre Dame Foundation.   
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Latter-day Paints

Salt Lake Temple’s four-year renovation set to begin this year
“To some extent, buildings are like people,” said Russell M. Nelson, the 17th and current president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). “Not only is the aging process inevitable, but it can [also] be unkind.” Nelson offered the metaphor in his speech at the 186th General Conference Session in April 2019 to announce that Salt Lake Temple, the largest LDS temple in the world, and the 10-acre Temple Square that surrounds it, will be closed to the public starting December 29, 2019, to undergo a four-year restoration. That series of upgrades that will make the site more accessible to the 3-to-5 million visitors the site receives annually. “This project will enhance, refresh, and beautify the temple and its surrounding grounds,” said Nelson. “Obsolete systems within the building will be replaced. Safety and seismic concerns will be addressed. Accessibility will be enhanced so that members with limited mobility can be better accommodated.” Members of the church called upon FFKR Architects, the largest architecture firm in Utah, to not only provide solutions to the temple’s structural issues, but to envision a combination of preservation, restoration, renovation, demolition, and new construction to be contracted by local company Jacobsen Construction. The formal temple entry point, for instance, will be improved with the addition of skylights that will provide sweeping views of the temple’s spires from the interior, and a new tunnel will be built underground to connect the Conference Center parking area with the temple’s grand hall. Though smaller existing buildings on the site will be demolished to make way for several features new to the grounds—including multiple temple entry pavilions, two visitor centers, and updated hardscaping and landscaping—the church has stated that all of the changes will be made with only the square’s original purposes in mind. “Efforts will be made to preserve the unique historicity of each temple wherever possible, preserving the inspiring beauty and unique craftsmanship of generations long-since passed,” said Nelson. “We will strive to preserve its reverent setting and character as originally directed by President Brigham Young.” To achieve a high level of fidelity in its preservation efforts, members of the local Church History Department were employed to perform research on the characteristics of the temple when it was first completed, including paintwork, murals, millwork, and furniture. Plans for the renovation began modestly when it was recently discovered that the 253,000-square-foot temple, first completed in 1893 by Thomas O. Angell, sits on earthquake-prone land and is in dire need of seismic and structural renovations. The last renovation, which took place between 1962-1963, included demolition of the original annex (due to its structural instability), the installation of all-new mechanical systems, plumbing, wiring, carpeting and light fixtures, and the redecoration of the entire building (Temple Square was officially designated a National Historic Landmark shortly after in 1964). It was determined that the upcoming renovation should include the replacement of the temple’s aging mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems in their entirety while also implementing a significant seismic upgrade using a base isolation system that will take approximately a year to install alone. According to Brent Roberts, the church’s director of special projects, this will require placing hundreds of shock absorbers between the ground and the building’s footings and foundations. "It actually will now be the foundation of the temple, so when the earth moves, the base isolation system takes all that movement," Roberts explained. Base isolators have proven to be an effective safeguarding system for historic buildings and have even been employed in other historic buildings in the area, including The Salt Lake City-County Building, completed in 1894. “The base isolators take a lot of the energy out of a 7.3 magnitude earthquake,” said David Hart, the former executive director of the Capitol Preservation Board. “It's a really, really efficient way of reducing the force elements that are predicted to hit the building in a major earthquake.” As an extra precaution in the event of natural disasters, the temple’s iconic stone spires and walls will be strengthened while maintaining their original aesthetic character. Though Salt Lake Temple won’t open its doors again to the public until 2024, far-reaching efforts were made to make sure the construction process will not interrupt the regular functions of surrounding facilities and events. the church will ensure that there will be no street closures or impediments to pedestrian and vehicle traffic during construction, while the North Visitor’s Center and Salt Lake Tabernacle, a historic meeting hall on the western edge of Temple Square, will remain open for events.
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Acqua Alta

Venice is slammed with floods as architectural treasures are submerged
Over the last 24 hours, the city of Venice, Italy, has experienced record-breaking flooding—the highest its been in over 50 years. According to city officials, 85 percent of Venice was underwater by yesterday evening with peak water heights reaching just over six feet.  Mayor Luigi Brugnaro called for a state of emergency, citing the flooding as more than just a city-wide problem, but a global issue and a result of climate change. The “Acqua Alta” as it’s officially called, was caused this week by high tides and a strong, low-pressure storm system in the north Adriatic Sea, reported The Washington Post. Hotel lobbies, churches, and even plazas like St. Mark’s Square, which through photos you can see was swimmable at one point, have been submerged and are now barely walkable.   Reports are also coming in that the 925-year-old St. Mark’s Basilica has been severely damaged by the event. It’s the second time the architectural icon has flooded in the last two years but could turn out to be the worst. The basilica has only flooded six times throughout its entire history.  Venice has been more strategically striving to stop such catastrophic flooding from happening in the last several decades. Its MOSE project was established in the late 1980s and construction began in 2003 in an attempt to protect the city and the Venetian Lagoon by building an underwater floodgate system to seal off the city’s inlets during acqua alta. Due to cost overruns, construction delays, and corruption within the Italian government, the build-out of all 78 gates essentially halted for five years and missed its target deadline of last year. With the goal of protecting Venice from flooding of up to 10 feet, work on MOSE is expected to be completed by 2022, although that could change thanks to this week’s devastation.  The Conversation US reported last September that without intervention like the completed MOSE project, Venice could be totally underwater by the year 2100. The publication conducted a research study with the National Research Center of Venice and found that such disastrous flooding could occur with nearly every high tide in 50 years.