Monday, May 23, 2005


I watched the Burlington Industries building in Greensboro being imploded at 10 a.m. this morning. It was really, really loud. The N&R has video here.

I spent about 45 minutes waiting for the explosion, eavesdropping shamelessly on a couple of retired former Burlington executives and their wives. They talked about their children and grandchildren, about other business people that they spotted in the crowd, about their digital cameras -- but not about Burlington Industries or the building that they had worked in, which was about to be destroyed.

I asked one of them whether he liked the building, and he said only that he never thought it was very functional. Clearly there wasn't any sentimental attachment here.

When the structure went down, the crowd cheered. But it made me feel kind of weird. Watching a glass-and-steel structure collapse in a cloud of dust just brought back memories of a very bad morning in September a few years ago, when I watched in amazement and horror as thousands died in New York.

This time, though, it was just a building, even if it was an interesting and historic one.

UPDATE: Ed Cone has photos and impressions, and David Hoggard also has a few thoughts. WXII has video with a few shots of Ed Cone (dark hair and beard -- you can hear him say, "I can't believe they're clapping!")

MORE from Phil Melton:

Sadly, [the destruction of historic buildings is] all too typical of Greensboro. Over the years there has been remarkably little preservation or interest in history or in historically significant structures. When I moved to Raleigh in 1985, I commented to someone that I felt like I was actually living in the South, in a place with a sense of tradition. Greensboro had then, and continues to have to me, the feeling of a stereotypical suburbia, which could exist in almost any section of the country, with little sense of tradition or true local character.

STILL MORE: Chewie has more comments and links to photos of the Burlington building when it was under construction. Lenslinger was there, too. I guess I was in the wrong spot -- next to the Sears parking lot.

AND STILL MORE: Lenslinger has great first-hand coverage of implosion-as-media-event.


Anonymous said...

The passing of the Burlington Industries Headquarters Building #2 (aka: 3330 Friendly Ave)

I, as did many Greensboro residents, watched in amazement and disgust as this Greensboro landmark was destroyed this morning. This building, “3330” (as it was called by those that knew the building), WAS probably the most unique and beautiful of structures in Greensboro (with all due respect to the other significant structures such as the Depot, Jefferson Pilot, the old library, etc.). This was one of those moments in time that makes you think…..

I worked in that building, having started my professional career there, I was proud to be a part of BI, at the time the largest textile company (in the world) (remember the TV commercial where the weave lines came across the screen?....remember the words: “If it had anything to do with Textiles, We do it, and we do More of it than anyone in the world!” Greensboro was proud of Burlington Industries and the building.

I am personally proud and thankful for the time I spent in Burlington Industries and at the 3330 building. Most of all, I am thankful that I met my wife while working at 3330 and as a result I have two wonderful children. This alone, for me, is the legacy that I will cherish from 3330 and will never forget…fortunately I also have some photographs!

But, we (Greensboro residents) need to put this behind us now, and should look toward counting our blessings that are associated with this moment in time. Thanks are truly in order for many things, and we should not let this moment pass without some perspective.

With that in mind let’s start by thanking J. Spencer Love, he had the foresight and drive to start Burlington Industries and ultimately build 3330. He created a company once employing 120,000 and the two headquarters buildings that employed more than a thousand (well paid employees).

Next, we should thank Starmount Corporation, they have promised to replace 3330 with some desperately needed retail shopping space…no doubt Greensboro needs another strip mall ! Accordingly, Starmount will create a couple hundred (min-wage) jobs to take up the slack. We understand the “burden” that they faced with this “white elephant” that was such a problem, why just the asbestos abatement alone would have cost “mega dollars” and it was doubtful any company would want that expense! Yea right! But,…before you buy that line,….answer this: Did you see anybody in that big dust cloud that followed the implosion wearing a gas mask? No, why not, and no warnings?? But asbestos is VERY dangerous!?.. That’s because the asbestos was REMOVED before the implosion! So, that means the abatement cost were not saved by the implosion, they were incurred in any case…(in economic terms that makes the asbestos argument a moot point), oh well! But let’s give more thanks!

Now, let’s thank the Greensboro City Council, for their foresight and aggressive action in this case. Yes, they held themselves back from the urge to purchase and abate the building, and then give it to some large company as an incentive to move to Greensboro. Why, such an action would have cost maybe (and this is a WILD guess, but I bet the range is close) 25 to 50 million dollars!! I’m sure some company would have jumped on a deal to move into a new headquarters if they had it given to them! Just think of the fiscal and historical significance of this action, (or lack of action). Of course, having missed this opportunity, City Council was ready to spend 200-300 million dollars to build Dell a new plant…..makes you think, doesn’t it???

Moving on, we ultimately need to give thanks to the management of Burlington Industries itself. Yes, let’s not forget that without the adept strategy and business skills of the BI management team in place from the early 80’s thru the 90’s the company itself would not have come to such an ignominious end. No doubt it’s a proud thing to have been the “LAST CEO” of Burlington Industries, and I bet he got a bonus to stay on and serve as undertaker for the corporate carcass! Sharing some of this “thanks” should also be our local and national political leaders. Yes, they assured Greensboro, and the Textile industry that they would do what they could do to keep the textile industry in America healthy. Too bad they forgot to mention that there was nothing they could, or would do! Speaking of these groups of people….I didn’t see any of either group at the implosion…wonder why???

Lastly, but not least, let’s give thanks to GH Griffin. They did a wonderful job of bringing down 3330. To their credit they appear to have accomplished the task efficiently and (relatively) with safety in mind. This company has basked in some notoriety from their efforts after 911 and now with this successful demolition. But, did you ever wonder where all that “stuff” they remove goes to? Fact is, they drained an existing lake that out-flowed into a city park and then into Buffalo Stream system and thus the Randleman reservoir system. The stream was tested and found to contain extremely high levels of heavy metals and other contaminates such that the stream was no longer capable of supporting aquatic life. Additionally, the neighborhood that had once overlooked the lake now overlooks a scene of mass metallic destruction (noisy and occasionally smelly) that bears a striking resemblance to “Ground Zero. Let us now hope that with their newfound stature in the community they find the time to be a little more gracious to their own neighbors and the Greensboro environment in general.

Now, Greensboro would rather forget it’s “Textile” past, and has effectively destroyed the legacy it once cherished, first downtown for a “much needed ballpark”, now at 3330. Perhaps we should rename the Bur-Mil Park and the Love tennis center and make a clean sweep of history!

For our neighbors in High Point, TAKE HEED….Greensboro’s experience with Textiles points toward your future with Furniture…learn from Greensboro…yes, China will make more and more furniture, you cannot stop that, you will lose the furniture market, and the Furniture Mart building will be imploded to make room for a strip mall !

Anonymous said...

That last entry was beautifully stated. Thanks anonymous.

Rob Ainbinder said...

"Monday Morning a Piece of Modernity Makes Way for Shopping "

When I first visited Greensboro back in 1998 on a job interview I was struck by several things.

Architecturally the landscape seemed homogenous almost like one could pour everything into a one gallon jug of whole milk. But, when my relocation specialist, who toured me around the area, drove down Friendly towards Wendover my jaw dropped as we approached the Burlington Industries headquarters.

What was this? A steel superstructure ensconced a glass tower. The building's design in sharp contrast to the residential area surrounding it. I was impressed.

Being an armchair fan of architecture this strucuture reminded me of the John Hancock tower by I.M. Pei in Boston, MA. A building I had the opportunity to visit many times as a youth.

But, alas, Monday we bid farwell to one of Greensboro's modern architectural gems for some more shopping.

This says a lot about the area's priorities...sad.

The Blog and Nothing But the Blog

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