Too many vacant Joplin buildings — including some of our most historic and iconic — are today boarded up with plywood.
Some are downtown, some along Main Street, but we see plywood used elsewhere.
Described as "the handsomest apartment house in the West" when it was built more than a century ago, the Olivia Apartments, 320 S. Moffet, is today a plywood-wrapped eyesore along a busy Joplin street, with access blocked in the back by barbed wire.
We don't think it has to be that way.
Likewise for the former Downtown Y and the nearby Robertson Apartments building, which are a couple more high profile examples where plywood is sending the wrong message about Joplin.
Ordinances prohibiting the use of plywood to secure broken windows and entryways on vacant and abandoned properties are becoming common elsewhere. The state of Ohio passed one that is direct and simple: "No person shall use plywood to secure real property that is deemed vacant and abandoned.” Some communities are requiring property owners to use some tough plastic or polycarbonate, called clearboarding, that also allows police officers and firefighters to see inside the building.
It's a bit more expensive, but doesn't send the same "blight" message and doesn't lead to the same level of decline in adjacent property values.
Drive by the Olivia and picture it with clearboarded or polycarbonate windows, rather than rotting plywood.
We think Joplin can do better — must do better. We urge the business community, property owners and city leaders to get behind a campaign to rid the city of plywood on abandoned and vacant property unless a building permit has been issued and the work is temporary.