Revitalization

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 associate director for 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 associate director for 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.

An Eyesore No More: The Resurrection of LA's Boyle Hotel

Posted on: December 10th, 2012 by Lauren Walser 2 Comments

 


This historic photo from California State Library shows the historic Boyle Hotel in Los Angeles in 1895.

Looking at it just a few years ago, you might have had a hard time believing that the Boyle Hotel in Boyle Heights, a community located just east of downtown Los Angeles, was once the grandest structure in the neighborhood.

When it was built in 1889, the four-story, Italianate-style hotel signaled the city’s growth. The farmland once surrounding the city center was being transformed into new suburban neighborhoods, like Boyle Heights, and the red brick and elegant turret made the new building a popular gathering place for the community.

Over time, it became home to mariachis, who congregated across the street at Mariachi Plaza, playing music and waiting for work.

But by the time the nonprofit East Los Angeles Community Corporation (ELACC) purchased the building in 2006, much of the building’s original splendor had been lost.... 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.

Lauren Walser

Lauren Walser

Lauren Walser is the Los Angeles-based Field Editor at Preservation magazine. She enjoys writing and thinking about history, art, architecture, and public space.

From Main Street: Will Lifestyle Centers Replace Downtown?

Posted on: November 19th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments

 

This blog post was adapted and edited for length from an article on the National Trust Main Street Center. Read the original piece here by Michael Stumpf, consultant and principal of Place Dynamics LLC.

Lifestyle centers -- a new open-air retail format smaller than a regional mall and often unanchored by traditional department stores -- are developers' response to a changing retail landscape. These centers cater to the specialty retailers, restaurants, and service chains that continue to add new store locations. The open-air format, design and amenities, and concentration of entertainment uses seek to create a more exciting environment to attract customers.

Interestingly, developers of lifestyle centers looked to traditional downtowns as an inspiration in creating the new format. For example:

  • Buildings are often made to look like multiple storefronts that have evolved over time.
  • Shops open directly to the sidewalk. Cars have even been introduced into the center with streets and parking.
  • The center will usually have entertainment uses, such as theaters and fitness centers. Residential or office uses may also be incorporated into the mix.

The format also gives mall operators an advantage over traditional downtowns in that, as private property, they are able to better regulate many of the issues that present challenges for downtown programs, such as:

  • Location. A lifestyle center, as a new creation, can be located in the best place relative to population and transportation networks.
  • New design. Designed from scratch, it can also create a pattern of uses, circulation, common spaces, and parking that addresses the desires of tenants and customers alike.
  • Ownership. Owning the properties allows operators to approve or disapprove of potential tenants, determine where they can locate in the center, regulate facades and signs, and establish policies for hours of operation.
  • Available resources. Tenant fees, paid by all, go toward providing security, maintaining common areas, and promoting the center, without the need for a member-based organization or business improvement district.


Historic downtown La Crosse, Wisconsin.

But do lifestyle centers really succeed in recreating the experience of a true downtown? While there are some very good examples of lifestyle malls as “new town centers,” the majority fall short in their design, more closely resembling the open air malls that were built until enclosed malls became the norm in the 1960s.

Even the best of the centers, though, still miss the mark in a few key areas. Despite their design appeal, lifestyle malls are filled with the same shops selling the same merchandise and the same restaurants with the same food as every other mall in America. Although safe and clean, they may also appear a bit sterile.

A close look at the buildings reveals them to be large structures with tacked-on facades, rather than individual structures with their own history. In fact, it is history that is missing from the picture. A true downtown has a patina, a unique feel, a randomness that can’t be duplicated.

Downtowns will not compete by trying to be like lifestyle centers, even though there are lessons to be learned from their design and management practices. Instead, downtowns will succeed based on their ability to differentiate themselves from the homogeneous aspects of these malls. They will build on their history, promote their unique shops and restaurants, incorporate residential and employment uses, provide flexibility in design, and celebrate the quirks, scars, and oddities that have appeared over time.

All of these characteristics tell a story that can be compelling, if the district tells it well. These things have an emotional appeal. People will talk of loving their downtown. How many people love the mall?

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.

Balancing Preservation and Development in the Rapidly Growing Capital

Posted on: October 17th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Ari Gefen, Public Affairs Intern


Streetscape in Mt. Pleasant neighborhood, Washington DC.

On Friday, October 12, I had the pleasure of attending two of the afternoon sessions at the DC Preservation League's 2012 Conference at the Charles Sumner School. The talks gave great insight into unique concerns that preservationists face in a city that is changing at an intense pace.

The first talk I attended was on streetscapes, which may not be what you think they are. Streetscapes are the trees, planters, and other breaks in the concrete and asphalt that line every street in Washington, DC.

These small patches of flora make the District one of the best stewards of green space within a dense urban center in the country, and are actually quite historic in nature. In fact, these streetscapes date all the way back to the Parking Act of 1870. Facing road deterioration due to weather and Civil War troop movements, as well as severe budgetary restraints, Congress came up with the inventive solution of “parking” its roads.

This parking created a distinctive “greenprint” for DC streets that now covers over 9,000 acres of space on District sidewalks. Besides providing practical benefits such as reducing crime, flooding, and pollution, these parking spaces also create a pleasant and consistent aesthetic that makes DC one of the most walkable cities in the nation.

Trees and planters on the sidewalks are probably not the first thoughts that pop into people’s mind when they think of DC, but this talk definitely made the point that the small things in a city are also an important part of what makes it great.

The second seminar concerned the subject of new developments in historic districts, and covered a wide array of approaches to the issue. The first speaker, James Appleby, spoke about the Bryan School, a disused but historic property in his neighborhood that was falling into disrepair.

Through the formation of a neighborhood association with the school as its landmark property, Appleby was able to work with developers to reuse the school as condominiums, revitalizing a community around a property that most people had written off.


Mural in U St. corridor, Washington DC.

Sheryl Walter, who is the current head of the U Street Neighborhood Association, discussed the challenge of maintaining the historic nature of a community that has become a serious entertainment hub with very desirable and underdeveloped space.

Though Walter seemed mostly welcoming of the massive development coming to her neighborhood, she was attempting to restrain overambitious and tall development that would obscure the nature of the neighborhood. Considering the breakneck pace of development in the U Street corridor, however, it was unclear how much power her community will be able to wield in holding back the onslaught of apartment complexes and retail space.

The third speaker spoke about perhaps the most unique preservation concern -- preservation of a community, rather than a building. Jim Myers lived through and wrote extensively on the horrible murders and mismanagement surrounding the Kentucky Courts public housing project in the 1990s. The Kentucky Courts were built in the modernist style and at first created a successful community in Capitol Hill East. Its interconnected stairwells and open courtyard fomented a sense of togetherness and encouraged neighborly interaction.

However, the same elements that made Kentucky Courts a pleasant place to live eventually came to serve a different purpose, as the building began to fall apart and its passageways became a perfect setting for a gang fortress in the 1990s. Through strong community activism, and with eventual cooperation from the DC government, Myers and his neighbors were finally able to bring down the infamous project and replace it with mixed income housing funded by a private-public partnership.

Myers’ story brought up an interesting point about the diversity of preservation that I believe was well presented in these conference sessions. Preservation often focuses on a particular building or neighborhood, but the preservation of community and character is equally important.

The talks I attended demonstrated that preservation moving forward will have to address both issues while also accommodating necessary change. Successfully navigating these challenges will ensure that DC remains the captivating place it is today, even as it continues to grow at a rapid rate.

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.