Author Archive

New Help for Teardowns

Posted on: August 18th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

As we all watch and wait to see how the slumping economy and struggling housing sector either rebounds or continues to fall, one has to question if teardowns – the demolition of houses for larger replacement homes, often referred to as McMansions -- are likely to continue or even make economic sense in the near future. While the demolition of perfectly good houses doesn’t meet our sustainability goals, the practice has developed a strong foothold in many communities around the country, and in Canada and Australia. As I’ve watched this trend grow into a profitable niche market and, most recently, have seen it slowdown in the last year, I’m not convinced teardowns are finished. If anything, teardowns are likely just on a hiatus and, in many places, continue full steam ahead despite the gloomy national economic outlook.

What this current economy does offer us though is a cooling off period to get a handle on this issue and be proactive before teardowns start up full force again. The ways in which communities are responding to teardowns are diverse in approach and overall effectiveness. So in places like Downers Grove, IL, the community is trying to balance the needs of newcomers while also addressing a reduction in affordable “starter” housing, storm water drainage impacts caused in part due to teardowns, and the overall loss of original community character. In Westport, CT, community leaders are responding to teardowns by increasing the period for a demolition delay from 90 to 180 days. Sometimes efforts are being done on a house-by-house basis, such as in Seattle, where a resident is currently making a last ditch effort to save an intact 1908 Craftsman-style home by moving it out of harms way. And in Raleigh, an organization called Community Scale has formed to advocate for approaches that guide infill construction while also preserving the integrity and diversity of the city’s older neighborhoods.

There’s no single tool out there to solve the problem but rather a combination of strategies works best. Recognizing that most people don’t know where to start or go for best practices, a new online tool has been developed called Teardown Tools on the Web. Created as part of the Teardowns Initiative of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, this tool is intended as an easy-to-share, user-friendly, one-stop-shop highlighting approximately 30 tools and more than 300 examples of best practices being used around the country. Check it out at http://www.preservationnation.org/issues/teardowns/

-Adrian Fine, Director Northeast Field Office, National Trust for Historic Preservation

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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Kansas Court Finds Religious Exercise Would Not Be Substantially Burdened in State Preservation Law Case

Posted on: July 25th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Bethany Place - Photo Credit: Kansas Preservation Alliance, Inc.

On July 21, 2008 the Shawnee County District Court set aside the Topeka City Council’s decision under the Kansas Historic Preservation Act, that there were no feasible and prudent alternatives to the construction of a new parking lot for Grace Cathedral, to be located in the environs of Bethany Place, the site of Bethany College, the first women's college in Kansas. The City had approved the project despite a finding by the Kansas Historic Preservation Officer, that the proposed project would “encroach upon, damage or destroy the Bethany Place site” because it would necessitate the removal of several historic trees and change the relationship between two historic buildings on the site and the street.

In a detailed, 57-page decision, the court sharply criticized the city for ignoring evidence that feasible and prudent alternatives to the proposed parking lot existed and for granting the permit upon the threat of litigation under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). Significantly, the court stated a decision to deny the Cathedral’s parking lot project would not rise to the level of a “direct and substantial burden” on religious exercise.

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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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

A Loss for the Trust, Preservation Movement

Posted on: July 21st, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

I am saddened to report that Jack Walter, the sixth president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation from 1984 to 1992, died unexpectedly this past weekend.

Jack Walter was a passionate preservationist who cared deeply about the special places that are our legacy from the past. Using the skills and experience he had acquired in a long and distinguished public-service career, he led the National Trust for Historic Preservation to become the strong, effective organization it was meant to be -- and helped bring new life to historic buildings, neighborhoods and landscapes from coast to coast. All of us who work to keep America's heritage intact and alive are deeply in his debt.

-- Richard Moe, President, National Trust for Historic Preservation

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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Restoring New Orleans: National Trust Volunteers

Posted on: July 11th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

National Trust Volunteer GroupI recently had the pleasure of accompanying twenty-five friends of the National Trust to New Orleans where we spent one week volunteering through the Rebuilding Together New Orleans program. We worked on the interior of a house in the Hollygrove neighborhood, the exterior of a house in the St. Roch neighborhood and finished up the week organizing the salvage materials at RTNO's warehouse. The warehouse stores architectural details such as doors, windows, brackets, columns, etc. from demolished homes for resale. The RTNO keeps the price as minimal as possible - just enough to meet their warehouse operating expenses. The one rule they have is that the materials must be used in New Orleans. It's a way to recycle the local materials that would otherwise be lost.

The National Trust volunteer group really made a difference in New Orleans and everyone returned with a personally rewarding experience. Jessica Anderson, from Dallas, TX, described her time with the group:

"Having never been there before my trip with the National Trust, I must say that New Orleans is one of the most charming cities you can visit. While talking with locals during the week, I feel as though we may never truly know all the benefits the city will reap from the good work our team put forth during the week—it is obvious that the city of New Orleans will be continuously aided by the creativity, innovation and energy put forth by our group's members. I am grateful to the Trust for providing inspiring leaders who encouraged us throughout the week, regardless of how warm the New Orleans summer "breezes" may have been.

The tour of the historic section of the city introduced us to the beauty and calm that is quintessentially NewNational Trust Volunteers in New Orleans Orleans. The old fashioned St. Charles Streetcar was wonderful, cruising along through town toward museums, the zoo, galleries, and, of course, the local watering holes – where the delightful mint juleps were enjoyed by visitors and locals alike. Since returning home from the trip, I find myself not only reminiscing about the camaraderie that takes place while making midnight trips with new friends to Café du Monde for café au lait and beignets, but also the genuine Southern hospitality and charm – our trip proved to me that New Orleans literally has something for everyone, from the demure to the risqué!"

by Rachel Russell

Statewide and Local Partnerships

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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

"I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane": Final Thoughts on PLT 2008

Posted on: July 3rd, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

PLT Classroom

It has been a few days since we had to leave cool (and apparently unseasonably rainy) Portland, Maine to return to the humidity that is Washington in the summer, but the thirty-four participants of this year’s Preservation Leadership Training left with a lot more baggage (the good kind, of course). As Robin from Maryland said, “We're back home and all suffering from withdrawal! New friends, a great educational experience, a fabulous city!”

Let’s see what they took home with them:

Preservation Leadership Training Suitcase

  1. One massive ten-pound notebook filled with written resources ranging from fundraising tips to economics of historic preservation.
  2. A pocketful of Don Rypkema’s money (good questions everyone!).
  3. Tools for reenergizing their preservation work in states across the country.
  4. Maybe a little less sleep….
  5. And new network of 34 people from across the country that they can talk to on a regular basis.

The Team Project—The Baxter Building

At the dedication ceremony for the Baxter Public Library on February 21, 1889 James Phinney Baxter said: “I have reared a structure of wood and stone. You are to build character.” At the team project presentations this past Friday the five teams attempted to do just that. Each team made proposals ranging from a culinary school to mix use development for art and architecture, a retail arts incubator project, a center for preservation studies and folk arts, and finally the new home for two special collections which would effectively return the Baxter Building to its original use as a library.

These ideas fermented after early morning interviews, late nights and lots and lots of coffee. Additionally, each team pulled from personal experiences and lectures to come up with the five very unique presentations. In the end these projects will help the building’s developer to come up with a preservation friendly plan for the building that is compatible with the Portland community and mindset. As the blue team, quoting Judge Symonds at the dedication in 1889, stated at the start of their presentation, “What is the common possession of all must be preserved in the interest of all.“

Last Words

PLT Group

Hopefully this group of newly minted Preservation Leadership Training alumni will take the knowledge and experiences gained from this past week and use it in their various capacities in the historic preservation field. As Judy from New York stated:

I did not know how much I learned until after I came home from PLT. While describing the week to a friend, the amount of material and the practical experience we had with our group project suddenly dawned on me. The curriculum and project worked so well independently and together to make a great training experience”

Thanks for making this week a success! I know I took away a lot of information on preservation programs across the country all while enjoying the wide variety of food that Portland has to offer.

For more information on Preservation Leadership Training visit www.preservationnation.org and http://www.placeeconomics.com/2008/07/preservation-leadership-training.html
Quotations from the Baxter Buildings 1889 dedication ceremony are from the Special Collections at the Portland Public Library.

Photographs by Alison Hinchman, NTHP

Priya Chhaya

Center for Preservation Leadership

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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.