Civic

Renovating Schools: Good for the Pocketbook & Good for the Soul

Posted on: October 25th, 2011 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 4 Comments

 


Buffalo's renovation of 48 older schools created local jobs and incorporated 21st century technology into once-vacant historic buildings like the City Honors School.

Written by Renee Kuhlman

Everyone once in a while, I have to visit a historic building and recharge. Sound familiar? There’s just something about being enveloped in a place that’s seen some history that’s good for my soul.

Last Friday, I got to see several renovated schools in Buffalo, New York courtesy of Conrad Wesolek from LPCiminelli Construction Corp. Did I mention that $1.2 billion (yes, billion) has been invested in renovating old and historic schools in Buffalo?

What fascinated me was the fact that the folks involved couldn’t believe that this wasn’t the norm around the country. They saw these renovations as being good for the school district’s bottom-line.

  • We know that renovation creates more jobs than new construction because it’s more labor intensive.
  • We know that renovation puts more money into the local economy because labor and materials are often produced and acquired locally.
  • We know that public investment in infrastructure increases private investment in surrounding properties.

So like the folks in Buffalo, I struggle to understand why it’s not the norm around the country to reinvest in public school infrastructure.

That’s why we’ve been putting on an educational webinar series with partners such as the Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI), the National Center for Safe Routes to School, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center to Prevent Childhood Obesity, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

If you missed the webinar series, don’t worry – you can still download them and enjoy them at your leisure.

Additionally, if you have questions about how you can make renovation of older schools a reality in your town, please join our upcoming live chat on November 1 at 2:00 p.m. EST. The live chat will provide you the opportunity to pose questions to experts in many fields, including a representative from the EPA who can answer questions about the first-ever federal school siting guidelines.

Like Buffalo, we at the National Trust believe that renovating older schools shows students, their parents, and other local citizens how historic buildings can be transformed into inspirational, 21st century classrooms. Good for the pocketbook? Yes. But also good for the soul.

Renee Kuhlman directs the Helping Johnny Walk to School project – to help states encourage school siting practices and policy that sustain our communities.

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.

Back to School: New Tools for Local Preservationists

Posted on: October 12th, 2011 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Renee Kuhlman

New tools, including siting guidelines and model policies for school districts, will help local preservationists make the case for preserving our older and historic schools.

Yesterday I went back to school. Well, at least the modern day version – I joined a webinar.

While I was a presenter on policy recommendations developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, I also had the opportunity to learn about three new tools that will help local preservationists preserve their older and historic schools.

Looking for ways to show how walkable your older school is? About two years ago Brian Fellows with the Arizona Department of Transportation had the bright idea to develop a tool that would help school districts evaluate the walkability of different school locations. With input from many organizations, including the National Trust and the Arizona Department of Health, Brian created a tool that you can use to illustrate to your local school district just how centrally-located and well-placed our older schools really are.

Looking for model siting policies your school district could adopt? The National Policy and Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Childhood Obesity is developing model policies that will help ensure the continued use of older, walkable schools. Sara Zimmerman announced that they’ll be available from their website in two weeks but gave us a preview yesterday.

Among other things, NPLAN’s model school siting guidelines for Local Education Authorities call for:

  •  coordinated planning (National Trust Advisor and former New Hampshire State Senator Martha Fuller-Clark believed so strongly about this need that she successfully introduced Senate Bill 59 which now ensures closer cooperation between municipalities and school districts throughout her state);
  • finding flexibility in the common practice of requiring a minimum number of students per school, which sometimes leads to closing of smaller (usually older) schools;
  • the sharing of space (both within the school and within the community); communities are more likely to maintain and retain older schools which provide lots of utility and are financially viable.

Looking for help to engaging in the siting process? The US Environmental Protection Agency recently-released voluntary school siting guidelines were released with little fanfare. However, I believe the preservation community should pool our admittedly less-than-robust-resources to throw a big celebration.

Missed this great learning opportunity to “go back to school” and learn about these tools? No sweat. You can visit the Safe Routes to School site and download the archived webinar from there. You can also enjoy the rest of the Fall Webinar Series called “Expanding the School Siting Conversation."

DATE

TIME

SUBJECT

October 18 2:00pm EST 11:00am PST State Strategies for School Siting; Locating Schools for Better Health, Environmental, and Fiscal Outcomes
October 25 2:00pm EST 11:00am PST The Environmental Justice and Preservation Concerns of School Siting
November 1 2:00pm EST 11:00am PST A Live Chat on School Siting and Community-Centered Schools

If you want to go back to school from the luxury of your own computer, this is the way to go!

Renee Kuhlman directs the Helping Johnny Walk to School project and always enjoys learning new ways to encourage more community-centered schools. 

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.

Students Bring New Vision to an Old West Virginia High School

Posted on: October 12th, 2011 by Guest Writer 1 Comment

 


Old Ansted High School as it appears today. (Photo: Lynn Stasick)

Written by Lynn Stasick

A Concord University student addresses the Ansted City Council. (Photo: Lynn Stasick)

Hello again from the high hills and mountains of West Virginia! As a state-wide field representative for the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia (PAWV), I have been engaging students from within the West Virginia University school system to help save PAWV-listed endangered properties. Through those efforts, I had the opportunity to co-teach a class in heritage tourism last spring with friend and professor Dr. Susan Williams at Concord University in southern West Virginia.

Dr. Williams and I took 34 undergraduate students in the field to bring their talents to bear in the town of Ansted, located in Fayette County. The goal was to conduct an analysis of the Old Ansted High Schoolas part of an effort to save the building as a multi-use public facility. Presently, the city has no handicapped accessible public buildings and has to rent space. The plan is to turn the old high school into public office space, police headquarters, a twenty-first century hi-tech learning center, and - since there is already a gym – a public recreation center.

A new vision for the Old Ansted High School prepared by Concord University depicting rehabilitation possibilities.

The morning the class arrived at the school site, each student was given a disposable camera with which to establish a photographic record. Back in the classroom, they split into two groups and began to assemble a plan. One group developed a prioritized narrative needs assessment targeted toward structural rehabilitation, while the other worked on a plan for adaptive re-use.

When the project was complete, the class traveled back to Ansted one evening for a meeting with the mayor, town council, members of the police force, and concerned citizens to present their assessments and engage in an open discussion. The evening was a great success, and it was so exciting to see young people from urban, suburban, and rural America, as well as students from as far away as China engaging so well with the residents of this small, rural, West Virginia town. It was very refreshing indeed, and it was apparent that the members of the community were thankful for everyone’s efforts.

Lynn Stasick is Partners in the Field Representative with the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia.

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Three Cheers for EPA's New School Siting Guidelines

Posted on: October 4th, 2011 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Renee Kuhlman

New voluntary guidelines from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency encourage local education authorities to rehabilitate existing schools whenever possible.

I just finished reading 143 pages of government guidance and I’m smiling. Nope, that’s not a misprint.

Over the week-end, EPA’s voluntary school siting guidelines were released with little fanfare. However, I believe the preservation community should pool our admittedly less-than-robust-resources to throw a big celebration.

Why?

The first-ever federal guidance on school siting offers local education authorities, tribes, and states suggestions similar to the ones that preservation organizations, including the National Trust for Historic Preservation, have been making over the past decade. This new tool:

Encourages examination of existing school facilities for rehabilitation and expansion before constructing a new school

Suggests states provide local education authorities with coordinated guidance from multiple state agencies including valuable information from State and Tribal Preservation Offices

Calls for “meaningful public participation” by stakeholder groups such as parents, teachers, school personnel and nearby residents in a transparent siting process

  • Encourages “joint use” of facilities;
  • Proposes an evaluation of existing policies and practices at local and state levels in light of these recommendations;
  • Discusses how construction of large schools on greenfields leads to “underinvestment in the community core and existing facilities” while rehabilitating existing buildings helps conserve energy and resources;
  • One of the four underlying principles states that “schools should be located in environments that contribute to the livability, sustainability, and public health of neighborhoods and communities;”
  • And more … but you’ll have to read them for yourself to believe it.

Best of all, the guidelines are written in easy-to-understand language for those of us unfamiliar with terms like “phytoremediation” and “total petroleum hydrocarbons.”

How did this new tool for community-centered schools come about?

In December 2007, Congress enacted the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA).1 Among the provisions included in the Act was a requirement that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) develop, in consultation with the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, model guidelines for the siting of school facilities that take into account:

  • The special vulnerabilities of children to hazardous substances or pollution exposures in any case in which the potential for contamination at a potential school site exists;
  • The modes of transportation available to students and staff;
  • The efficient use of energy; and
  • The potential use of a school at the site as an emergency shelter.

During the public comment period, many preservation organizations, including the National Trust for Historic Preservation, provided useful suggestions on how these voluntary guidelines could help sustain our older communities.

I, for one, think they succeeded.

But here’s where the hard work begins. These voluntary guidelines are just that – voluntary. The preservation community needs to take the next step and help states, tribes and local education authorities – those entities with responsibility for decision-making regarding school buildings and operations – adopt and implement these guidelines during a time when school districts and state agencies are struggling with shrinking budgets and staff.

To learn more about the EPA’s voluntary siting guidelines and other new tools, join a Fall Webinar Series called "Expanding the School Siting Conversation."

October 11 1:00pm EST 10:00am PST Location, Location, Location: New Guidance for Locating Schools in a Healthy, Sustainable Way
October 18 2:00pm EST 11:00am PST State Strategies for School Siting; Locating Schools for Better Health, Environmental, and Fiscal Outcomes
October 25 2:00pm EST 11:00am PST The Environmental Justice and Preservation Concerns of School Siting
November 1 2:00pm EST 11:00am PST A Live Chat on School Siting and Community-Centered Schools

Tomorrow, October 5, is Walk to School Day. While walking my daughter the four blocks to her 1960s elementary school, I’ll be thinking about how these new guidelines will help encourage the preservation and creation of other walkable schools.

Renee Kuhlman directs the Helping Johnny Walk to School project and is thrilled to report on this latest tool for encouraging more community-centered schools.

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.

Preservation Round-Up: Underneath the Overgrowth Edition

Posted on: September 29th, 2011 by David Garber 1 Comment

 

This might look cool (okay, or just really creepy) but it can be quite bad for the exterior building materials. (Photo: Flickr user flavor32)

You've seen houses like this before. The ones absolutely covered with ivy or other climbing vines - or the houses with neatly cropped, almost topiary-esque, greenery growing on the exterior brick, stone, or stucco. There's usually about one per neighborhood. Problem is, those vines can take quite the toll on old and historic buildings.

See what Old House Web has to say on the subject: "In the thrill of seeing such lovely ivy on my house, I made the classic mistake of not thinking about what was happening underneath it. That would be the tendrils creeping into every crack they could find in the brick, shimmying under the neighboring clapboard, and wrecking havoc underneath the lovely green blanket."

What are your thoughts on replacing superblocks with traditional street grids? Now, what if that means the demolition of a "historic" garden-style development? Activists in LA are decrying plans for a new mixed-use, LEED-certified, walkable development in favor of saving the superblock. Whaddya think? Is it worth it?

Historic Boston Incorporated recently completed renovations at on their new offices inside the old Dudley Square neighborhood firehouse. Check out the amazingly awesome fence they're building for it.

Speaking of awesome things... a young couple in San Antonio has begun renovations on an old house in the Dignowity Hill neighborhood. Why is this news? Because this renovation is the best of old and new, and, well, this whole "fixing up old houses in old neighborhoods" thing is a trend that just keeps giving. And there's a cool slideshow.

Good Buffalo news! "What many thought would surely see the landfill has had nothing short of a rebirth. St. Vincent's Orphanage stands as an incredible example of historic preservation near the brink of loss." Read this great account of how a high school is moving into the old St. Vincent's orphanage.

The Washington City Paper has an interesting piece on the next frontier of historic preservation. "...As time progresses, the definition of what we consider 'historic' also changes. That window is usually understood as about 50 years, which puts us in the early 1960s already." Is DC's Southwest Waterfront, a textbook example of urban renewal, the city's next historic district?

David Garber is a member of the Digital and New Media team at the 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.