Wednesday, July 23, 2014

State Fair board shelves plan to demolish 1938 building

This historic building at the Arizona State Fair Grounds was scheduled to be razed July 16, 2014, in Phoenix, but that process was halted. The Art Deco building dates back to 1938 and was constructed by the federal government as part of a New Deal-era program to lower unemployment during the Great Depression. (Rob Schumacher/The Republic)

Dustin Gardiner
The Arizona Republic |

After facing a gantlet of criticism over its attempt to raze a historic Depression-era building, the Arizona Exposition and State Fair Board voted Tuesday to shelve the demolition plans for now.

State Fair Deputy Director Wanell Costello said the agency, which had rebuffed previous efforts to save the structure, is now "looking for creative solutions not to tear it down." State Fair officials will meet with city and state leaders to examine alternative uses.

Board members overseeing the agency voted unanimously to halt demolition plans "until further notice." But no guarantees about the building's future were made, and preservation advocates said they will continue to seek a more-binding commitment.

The reprieve is the latest twist in a contentious fight over the fate of the Civic Building, also known as the WPA Administration Building, on the fairgrounds near McDowell Road and 19th Avenue. The structure was built in 1938 by the Works Progress Administration, a federal agency that led projects to put people back to work during the Great Depression.

Bulldozers were prepared to raze the Art Deco structure last week, until preservationists filed a last-minute lawsuit. The State Fair had wanted to remove the dilapidated building to make room for more asphalt vendor space.