Preservation group forms to protect historic character of downtown Farmington

A cluster of Victorian-era Queen Anne houses greets visitors as they enter historic downtown Farmington from the east. These 100-year-old homes, four on Grand River Avenue and three on Thomas Street, are occupied by both businesses and apartment dwellers. The well-maintained houses set a tone for the town. It's a tone revered by residents and visitors alike, yet also one that's threatened by the allure of new development dollars, this according to the newly-formed Preservation Farmington and its supporters.

An RFP issued by Farmington Public Schools and the city could spell the end for a number of these homes. It's the old Maxfield Training Center on Thomas Street that's up for re-development, and with it comes the potential for the demolition of at least two of these historic homes. Their demolition could free up Grand River street frontage, making the site even more attractive to developers. While nothing is yet decided upon, the potential for destruction has mobilized a group of concerned preservationists. They're trying to convince the school system, the city, and any eventual developer that Farmington's Victorian-era buildings should be left to their lots.

Preservation Farmington has gathered hundreds of signatures for a petition calling for the preservation of the homes. While they officially submitted the petition to city council in December 2015, the group is still pushing for more signatures to further drive home their point. Jena Stacey, a co-founder of Preservation Farmington, says the petition process has been an encouraging one as they have received an outpouring of support.

“Local residents, former residents, ancestors of current and former residents -- the overwhelming message we get is that people care about these structures and they don't want to see them lost,” says Stacey. “Even people who don't live in Farmington, they visit downtown on purpose because of buildings like these.”

While no decisions for the sites have been made, one compromise offered by officials is to perhaps sell the houses with the agreed intent of re-locating the structures. While preferable to flat-out demolition, removing the houses from downtown Farmington still results in a loss of that city center's character, says Stacey. In the meantime, Preservation Farmington will continue to gather signatures, spread awareness, and build the case for saving downtown Farmington's Queen Anne homes.

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