The construction team had rolled into town that summer. Flatbed cargo trucks stacked with bulldozers and heavy hydraulic lifts rattled along the streets disrupting the quiet afternoon. Behind them trailed sleek white Silverados, each featuring identical Japanese characters stenciled across the side. Their metallic skin glistened in the sun as pedestrians paused, murmured, and craned their necks to catch a glimpse of the passengers behind the tinted windows.
News that the city had sold the historic Le Claire House to foreign developers generated an uproar from the Richmond neighborhood associations. Historical preservationists had decried the state of the property for years and consistently lobbied the municipal government to take action, but to no avail. The price tag on the property discouraged buyers and the city was confronting a mounting tax deficit. The board of economic development had been repeatedly preaching the benefits of foreign capital investment with minimal success until the Japanese came along. Why should a few cantankerous citizens disrupt long-term plans for urban regeneration bankrolled by foreign investors?
Within a week, a chain-link fence was erected around the perimeter. A placard hung at the entrance informed the public that trespassing was both dangerous and illegal. The announcement was accompanied by Japanese characters and the word Saisei, the name of the development company. The construction team was a mix of Japanese and Korean workers who milled about the yard in hardhats barking orders, consulting blueprints, and operating the heavy machinery. None of the contractors or workmen left the premises. They resided in the old house, relying on imported water heaters and electric generators to service their basic needs. Most residents were perfectly fine with this arrangement and had little desire to interact with the foreign workforce.
Day by day, a new layer of industrial scaffolding went up, progressively walling off the Le Claire House from the surrounding urban environment. At night, electric floodlights illuminated the large windows, casting a pallid glow across the destroyed landscape. Work teams operated around the clock, typically manning the bulldozers and cranes in the yard during the day and confining themselves to interior renovations and excavations within the house at night. As expected, neighbors complained about the drilling and hammering that went on well into the early hours of the morning. Officials in the city council dutifully recorded their protests and made vague promises to address the matter, but the nightly excavations continued unabated.
Steve took all this in with an air of detachment.
-From “Regeneration” by Alistair Rey.
Find out what the preservation company is up to in “Home Sweet Home”
Get yours here: Home Sweet Home – A Millhaven Anthology