Author Archive

Open for Business Again at Pittsburgh's Market Square Place

Posted on: December 12th, 2012 by Julia Rocchi 9 Comments

 

Several years ago, Market Square Place was just a series of historic buildings on three different streets with different styles and heights, all suffering from decades of neglect. Some saw this as a case for demolition, but the City of Pittsburgh saw an opportunity to promote green urban living.

A public-private partnership brought the historic buildings together into a single mixed-use complex that now boasts residences, retail storefronts, and a YMCA, all with facades that have been restored to their original 1930s appearance. This successful reinvention as a fresh, eco-friendly community earned Market Square Place an Honor Award at the 2012 Richard H. Driehaus National Preservation Awards -- and the approval of the surrounding neighborhood.... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the director of digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.

[10 on Tuesday] 10 Steps to Establish a Local Historic District

Posted on: December 11th, 2012 by Julia Rocchi 2 Comments

 

Today’s local preservationists are big-picture thinkers. They’re not looking only at landmarks; they’re also thinking about their community’s whole environment, development history, sustainability, and politics. And one great way to protect a place’s history, culture, and values is to establish a local historic district.... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the director of digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.

Meeting Lincoln Through the Emancipation Proclamation

Posted on: November 28th, 2012 by Julia Rocchi 1 Comment

 

The historical drama Lincoln, now in theaters, brings the 16th president's fight for the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery to the big screen -- and with it a certain amount of celebrity status for Honest Abe. But is it the full story?

To find out, we turned to President Lincoln's Cottage, one of the National Trust's Historic Sites. The modest home in Washington, DC, served as Lincoln’s family residence for a quarter of his presidency during the summers of 1862, 1863, and 1864 -- and he was living there when he developed his Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, an important part of the timeline leading to the 13th Amendment.

Now the Proclamation has come home to roost (in a manner of speaking): The Cottage is the first public venue to display a rare, signed copy of the historic document recently purchased by David Rubenstein. It's on display now through the end of February 2013 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Proclamation's signing.

To better understand this exhibit's significance -- and the document's impact on the course of history -- we checked in with Erin Carlson Mast, the director at the Cottage, to ask her some timely questions.... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the director of digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.

 

Homeowners face some of the most cutting impacts of natural disaster: physical displacement, loss of property, financial uncertainty, and stress. And as Superstorm Sandy just proved, you can never take too many precautions ahead of a natural disaster.

But what if you own a historic property? Are there additional steps you should be taking? And what resources are available to you, the historic property owner, in the disaster’s wake?

Fortunately, there’s a wealth of information out there to help historic property owners minimize the impact to their building as well as strengthen their building’s resistance to extreme wind, rain and other climatic forces. This week’s toolkit compiles the essential steps you can take before and after the storm.

In coming weeks we’ll build on these principles and share specific tips for preparing, planning, and responding to a variety of natural disasters -- including hurricanes, floods, fires, and earthquakes. But for now, let’s start with the basics.


Storm Damage from Hurricane Sandy, Beverley Square West, Brooklyn, NY. Photo courtesy Chris Kreussling (Flatbush Gardener on Flickr)

Before the Storm

1. Create a disaster preparedness plan for your home or property ahead of time. Following a checklist in times of crisis can help focus your attention and keep you from missing important details. Check out this hurricane preparedness example from the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.

2. Check your insurance coverage. Older and historic properties often use materials or building techniques you can’t easily replicate today, which makes insurance companies far less likely to cover damage. A great option for insuring historic homes is National Trust Insurance Services (a National Trust subsidiary). NTIS can help value your property and ensure sufficient protection. Visit their website to learn more.

3. Print important information and documents ahead of time. Disasters often cause power outages and service disruptions, so in this wired age of computer and smartphone reliance, it’s helpful to have critical info already at your fingertips.

After the Storm

4. Secure your property. Your two most important tasks immediately following a hurricane are: a) ensure the safety and security of people working on site, and b) keep valuable or important building fabric from the debris heap. Saving architectural fragments, building materials, decorative plaster, etc. can help with restoration later.

5. Call your insurance company and register with FEMA. File a claim with your insurance company as soon as possible. If your area was included in a national disaster declaration, you’ll then want to register and file apply for assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Guidance, housing assistance, and more can be found at FEMA’s Disaster Recovery Centers after a national disaster.


Damage from Superstorm Sandy in Arlington, VA. (Photo courtesy Arlington County, via Flickr)

6. Call your state historic preservation office (SHPO) and local preservation commission. Your SHPO can answer questions about your historic property, direct you to the appropriate state and local resources, and help you navigate any confusing processes. If your property is protected as part of a local historic district or locally landmarked, make contact with the local commission early -- before proceeding with demolition or repairs to parts of the property that may be under the commission’s review.

7. Assess the damage. It usually costs less to repair or renovate a disaster-damaged house than to re-build. Before gutting your property (or deciding to demolish), contact your SHPO or statewide preservation organization to find contractors with proven expertise in historic buildings, who can walk through your property with you and help determine the scope of the damage.

8. Make a list. Inventory what was damaged or lost on your property (especially useful in cases of total destruction). Having an inventory will also help with your contractor bids and insurance claims later.

9. Compile repair bids. Figure out exactly what needs to be done, write it down, and walk through your house with contractors to get a ballpark estimate. If it sounds reasonable, request an item by item detailed bid. Try to get three bids based on the exact same work. (And remember to verify the contractor’s state license number and insurance.)

10. Investigate financial resources. Your property might qualify for any number of federal, state, and local funding programs, including grants, loans, and historic tax credits. Your SHPO can help direct you to the programs that best fit your property and its repair needs.

You can find more disaster recovery information on PreservationNation.org. You can also visit DisasterAssistance.gov.

Has your historic property weathered a natural disaster? Tell us about your experiences in the comments.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the director of digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.

[10 on Tuesday] 10 Ways to Connect Main Street and Hispanic Communities

Posted on: October 16th, 2012 by Julia Rocchi

 

This toolkit was adapted from a National Trust Main Street Center Story of the Week, “America in Translation: Hispanic Heritage on Main Street.” Read the full article.

Throughout National Hispanic Heritage Month this year (Sept. 15-Oct. 15), communities across the country honored the many contributions Hispanic and Latino Americans have made both to our nation and to their own cities and towns. This reflection is a great starting point for thinking about how to revitalize your own community while also honoring diverse heritages.

Norma Ramirez de Miess, Senior Program Officer at the National Trust Main Street Center, travels regularly to work with individual Main Street programs all over the country and help them reach out to their Hispanic constituents.

“Downtowns are at the heart of the community for everybody, and most cultures, even outside the U.S., have downtowns as their centers,” she says. “There is great potential for Main Street to be the catalyst for inclusion.”

Ramirez de Miess distills her long experience of building inclusive programs into three key principles: 1) understand what is shared among people in the district; 2) recognize the differences; and 3) build bridges. With these building blocks in mind, let’s look at 10 ways your town can connect with its Hispanic communities.

1. Spot economic opportunities. In many Main Street communities, often the more recent immigrants of the Hispanic community have become the primary economic force in once-forsaken downtowns. Take Woodburn, Oregon, for example. When an outlet mall dried up downtown business, the first-generation Mexican migrants living there saw an opportunity to start businesses in the vacant storefronts. Such entrepreneurship created a niche retail experience in the region, one that leveraged its Hispanic roots and also helped bring downtown Woodburn back to life.

2. Get hands-on. Betsy Cowan, Main Street manager in Egleston Square, Roxbury, Massachusetts, suggests that “tailored, on-site bilingual group training and one-on-one assistance programs designed for micro-businesses, although requiring a higher investment of time and resources, have been proven to yield results.” For example, with Cowan’s help, one local grocer realized that by making minor façade improvements and adding certain products to his stock, he could transform his business from a store catering primarily to Hispanic residents into a marketplace for all the neighborhood’s residents.

3. Start at the very beginning… A truly inclusive Main Street program needs to involve members of the Hispanic community on a fundamental planning level, whether through representation on the board of directors, partnerships, or volunteers. As Ramirez de Miess says, “When there’s no sense of ownership, there’s absolutely no commitment in the community to participate.”

4. …and start small. Not all Hispanic business owners might be as comfortable with or educated about the formal processes necessary for non-profit organization planning. As Woodburn’s Community Relations Officer Robyn Stowers suggests, “sometimes it makes more sense to start small, with the group that needs more coaching, and then strategically bring other groups in” as people gain more trust in the organization.

5. Take it offline. To successfully reach out to the Hispanic community in particular, Ramirez de Miess recommends direct rather than indirect forms of communication. In other words, have face-to-face meetings or visit individual businesses, rather than relying solely on email or phone calls.

6. Throw a party. Special events that celebrate important Hispanic holidays and festivals are perhaps the most visible way for a Main Street program to appeal to its Hispanic constituents. “I joke with people -- just give us a reason and we’ll have a party,” Ramirez de Miess says. “Celebrations of heritage, of family, are great for any culture.” And with the large number of volunteers required for a special event, celebrations are a great way to build a base of support in the Hispanic community for a growing Main Street.

7. Go bilingual in Spanish. In towns with a strong Hispanic demographic, make sure everyone can understand flyers, posters, and other promotional materials. In Amarillo, Texas’s Center City, the Main Street program translated all of its advertising copy into Spanish and launched a promotional campaign on a Spanish-language radio station for the annual August block party. While most, if not all, Hispanic residents are fluent in both English and Spanish, says Main Street Manager Beth Duke, “it meant a lot to Spanish speakers to hear the ads in the language of their home, it made them feel more welcome. Many people told me that they felt like they were truly invited to the event.”

8. Go bilingual in English. The language barrier can go both ways. In Bridgeton, New Jersey, Main Street manager Carola Hartley says that she used to hear complaints from English-speaking residents that it was hard for them to shop at Hispanic businesses due to the lack of English-language signs. In response, Bridgeton Main Street helped Hispanic merchants translate and put up signs and menus in both languages.

9. Balance preservation with culture aesthetics. In Harlingen, Texas, recent immigrants opening new businesses downtown sometimes have design ideas that clash with the existing built environment. “There’s a different aesthetic in Mexico -- large print, bright colors, the more signs the better -- so you want to respect the culture, but you also want to respect the original architecture of the building. You want to merge that,” explains Manager Cheryl LaBerge. Downtown Harlingen brings in architects and interior designers to work with individual businesses and educate business-owners about preserving the community’s architectural heritage.

10. Know your community’s makeup. Diverse ethnicities, nationalities, beliefs, and cultures are combined under the umbrella terms “Hispanic” and “Latino.” Moreover, established Hispanic communities as old as the town itself will likely have quite different needs than more recent immigrants or seasonal laborers. Learn your town’s particular makeup, and implement initiatives that will best help local entrepreneurs revitalize their businesses and participate in downtown activities.

When in doubt, the first step is always to respect the individual needs and rights of others, so that you can build mutual understanding and trust. As Ramirez de Miess puts it, “Building a relationship of trust means to connect with a genuine interest in people, finding out their needs and preferences. The first efforts need to be about learning about each other.”

Now it’s your turn. What examples can you share from your community about connecting with Hispanic heritage?

Interested in learning more about how Main Street can transform your community? Visit the National Trust Main Street Center for more info.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the director of digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.