Revitalization

Infill’s in: Seeking a Balance for Oregon’s Historic Districts

Posted on: November 16th, 2011 by Guest Writer 1 Comment

 

Written by Brandon Spencer-Hartle

Compatible Infill Design can be downloaded for free by clicking on the link in the text or by visiting the HPLO website.

On October 13, the Historic Preservation League of Oregon (HPLO) unveiled a special report on Compatible Infill Design to a room full of the organization’s closest members and friends. After conducting nearly a year of research and stakeholder input, the HPLO’s 12-page report detailed seven principles for new construction in Oregon’s Historic Districts.

  • The District is the Resource, Not its Individual Parts
  • New Construction Will Reinforce the Historic Significance of the District
  • New Construction Will Complement and Support the District
  • Infill Will be Compatible Yet Distinct
  • The Exterior Envelope and Patterning of New Buildings Will Reflect District Characteristics
  • Contributing Buildings Will Not Be Demolished to Create Infill Opportunities
  • Archaeological Resources Will be Preserved in Place or Mitigated

Philosophically, the principles are a clear departure from the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, an oft-cited justification for harsh differentiation. Based upon the input of stakeholders from across Oregon, the report and its principles refute the notion that all infill must be stylistically modernist regardless of its historic context. Ultimately, Compatible Infill Design calls on the National Park Service to revisit the intent of the existing Standards and to pursue standards and guidelines specific to new construction within historic contexts. The HPLO’s seven principles for new construction provide a starting point towards that end.

The principles and the supporting documentation found in Compatible Infill Design are the product of the Preservation Roundtable, an annual HPLO initiative that seeks to spur healthy discussion among diverse stakeholders about a challenging and topical preservation issue. Launched in 2010, the Roundtable focuses on moving Oregon’s historic preservation community upstream of prevailing issues, helping to reduce the perception that preservationists are merely the “purveyors of no.”

The inaugural 2010 Roundtable focused on “Healthy Historic Districts in a Changing World,” and brought together over 100 people to talk about the challenges and opportunities facing Oregon’s most historic areas. One of the nine recommendations presented in that year’s culminating special report, Healthy Historic Districts, was the “need for baseline standards for new construction.” Defining this baseline for historic district infill is what the HPLO set out to achieve with the 2011 Roundtable.

Participants in the Ashland Roundtable. (Photo: Historic Preservation League of Oregon)

The 2011 Roundtable held workshops in three cities - Ashland, Portland, and The Dalles - to gather the perspectives, experiences, and visions of diverse groups of Oregonians. Through the help of a volunteer taskforce and paid consultant team, the HPLO heard from over 200 Oregonians, including mayors, city councilors, planners, architects, developers, business owners, and landmark commissioners. Interestingly, while many of the participants were stakeholders within the same historic districts, the workshop sessions made evident that strategic conversation about new construction were long overdue. The Roundtable’s ability to bring stakeholders into a collaborative forum has provided not just a benefit for the HPLO’s Roundtable research goals, but has assisted communities in taking steps towards addressing critical local preservation issues.

In the month since releasing Compatible Infill Design, there has been plenty of feedback on the principles, their underlying assumptions, and the strategies for their implementation. At least five Oregon cities are already looking to implement some form of the principles into their standards and guidelines; Main Street managers are publically discussing how the principles could relate to downtown development goals; and - most importantly - diverse Oregonians are thinking collaboratively about how to chart a consistent approach to new construction in the state’s 123 National Register Historic Districts.

Compatible Infill Design and the conversations it has spurred are intended to bring a renewed interest in how Oregon protects and develops its Historic Districts, a group of places far more valuable than the sum of their individual parts. Both the 2010 and 2011 special reports are available free of charge on the HPLO website.

Brandon Spencer-Hartle is the Field Programs Manager at the Historic Preservation League of Oregon. He has asked that special thanks be given to project consultants Rick Michaelson, Karen Karlsson, and Jeff Joslin, 2011 Preservation Roundtable Taskforce members Paul Falsetto, Natalie Perrin, Ross Plambeck, Matthew Roman, and Patience Stuart, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation for its grant support of the program.

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

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Ideas Worth Sharing: Re-Framing the Historic Preservation Conversation

Posted on: August 16th, 2011 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments

 

Written by Rhonda Sincavage

The TED slogan is ‘ideas worth spreading’, and at some point last week I realized this had happened. Thanks to multiple historic preservation distribution networks, a video of a presentation I gave earlier this year at TEDxCLE has been shared by preservationists far and wide.

In my talk I mention how the loss of a building in my hometown sparked my interest in historic preservation, so it seems only appropriate that I mention “Memories of Endicott, New York” as another example that demonstrates core idea of the talk - historic preservation is really about community.  Within a few short days this Facebook page, just one of many ‘you know you’re from so-and-so’ type pages that have appeared in recent weeks, has generated hundreds of comments.

An overwhelming number of posts are about the special places - buildings and local business, some still around but many long gone- that make up this community. One of the comments in particular struck a special chord with me – the contributor wrote about how they were upset when they discovered on the bus ride home that the Moose Lodge (where the Pizza Hut stands today) was demolished while they were at school, and I couldn’t help comparing that to my own experience of loss of our hometown heritage.

To some, this facebook page may not fit the traditional definition of historic preservation, but for others of us, this is what historic preservation is all about. And for a select few, something like this collection of memories may even inspire a career choice.

A final thought for those who asked: I’m wearing a 1980’s ‘vintage’ Betsey Johnson dress in the video. Some argued this isn’t old enough to be considered vintage, but I’m not yet aware of a 50 year rule that applies to fashion.

For more, see:

Rhonda Sincavage is the Associate Director for Intergovernment Affairs 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.

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.

Save the Date: Next Twitter Chat is One Week Away (August 10)

Posted on: August 3rd, 2011 by Sarah Heffern 3 Comments

 

Twitter logoGiven that it is the first Wednesday of the month - our usual time for such things - I'd typically be writing this post as a quick reminder that there's a Twitter chat this afternoon. However, it's not normal circumstances, it's summer vacation season, and as such, two thirds of the team that produces the Twitter chats are out of the office this week. We thought it unseemly to ask our volunteer moderator to run the whole thing, so instead we moved the chat one week later into August.

And so, I'd like to invite you to join us one week from today - Wednesday, August 10, at 4:00 EDT - to talk historic preservation on Twitter. Our theme will be reaching out to under-served communities and how to build connections outside the "usual suspects." If you've been participating on the Twitter chats for a while, you may recall that this came up when we were talking about outreach in general, but we thought there was enough to discuss that it warranted a chat of its own.

In case you don’t remember how to participate – or haven’t joined us before – here are tips for joining in prepared by our chat co-founder, Ontario-based preservationist Kayla Jonas:

How to join in:

1. Sign in to Twitter, Tweet Deck or Tweet Chat. I usually use Tweet Chat to follow twitter chats since it adds the hash tag automatically and allows you to reply and retweet easily.

2. Follow and tweet with the hashtag #builtheritage

3. Watch for the questions in the Q1 format. Provide answers using the A1 format, and interact with other tweeters using replies and retweets.

Oh, and what Kayla means by the Q1/A1 format is this: Questions (we usually have four per chat) are posed by the moderator as Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4 about every 15 minutes. We ask that chatters reply with A1, A2, etc. to help everyone stay clear on what they’re responding to. A lot of side conversations and such still break out, but it helps keep things at least a little organized.

Hope you're able to join in!

Sarah Heffern is currently the most sunburned 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.

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern is the social media strategist for the National Trust’s Public Affairs team. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class. Follow her on Twitter at @smheffern.

 

Written by Erica Stewart

The $3.5 million rehabilitation of the historic People’s Building in Rocky Mount, NC exemplifies the type of historic redevelopment project that will benefit from an expanded federal historic tax credit.

The $3.5 million rehabilitation of the historic People’s Building in Rocky Mount, NC exemplifies the type of historic redevelopment project that will benefit from an expanded federal historic tax credit.

One of my wise co-workers recently posited that a commercial district is only as strong as its surrounding neighborhood. While I am not 100 percent sure someone couldn’t come up with an example of a healthy shopping district that draws mostly from neighborhoods other than its own, I absolutely agree with the underlying sentiment that commercial district revitalization and residential rehabilitation go hand-in-hand.

The recent introduction in the U.S. House of Representatives of two key pieces of legislation is designed to address both sides of that coin. These bills would capitalize on historic preservation’s power to create jobs and revitalize the communities where we live, work and yes, shop.

The first bill, the “Creating American Prosperity through Preservation Act,” or CAPP, is co-sponsored by Reps. Aaron Schock (R-IL) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). A major feature of this bill is to make the existing federal historic tax credit more useful to developers of smaller-sized historic rehabilitation projects, typically found in Main Street districts. Historic rehabilitation activity generates more and better-paying jobs than new construction. The changes proposed by this bill will undoubtedly increase the volume of historic tax credit deals done in this country. This is good news for the economy.

Reps. Michael Turner’s (R-OH) and Russ Carnahan’s (D-MO) “Historic Homeownership Revitalization Act (HHRA)” creates a complementary homeowner tax credit that would incentivize the rehabilitation of historic homes and the revitalization of historic neighborhoods. This credit would serve to make it more affordable for homeowners to care for their homes—a definite boon during these difficult economic and real estate market conditions—while helping to maintain the historic integrity of the properties and the vitality of historic neighborhoods.

Family homes, such as the Bennett’s, will benefit from the Historic Homeownership Revitalization Act.

Family homes, such as the Bennett’s, will benefit from the Historic Homeownership Revitalization Act.

Together, the bills promote balanced residential and commercial economic development, and construction activity that creates skilled jobs, in our historic Main Streets and neighborhoods. This legislation will help ensure that our older neighborhoods and commercial districts remain vibrant, relevant thriving centers of modern life that are sustainable, attractive, meaningful places to live, work and do business.

I know what you’re thinking:  new tax credits—in this political climate and federal budget situation? The economics of the federal historic tax credit are clear. Rutgers University data revealed that the credit has attracted $5 of private investment for every $1 of credit paid out by the Treasury. The cumulative, 32-year, $17.5 billion cost of the program is more than offset by the $22.3 billion in federal taxes these projects have generated.The successful track record of similar state tax credit programs makes a compelling case for the passage of a federal historic homeowner tax credit. We hope you’ll agree and help us by calling on your Representative to sign on as a co-sponsor of both bills. Take action now.

More information about the bills, including the newly released Rutgers University report on the Economic Impact of the Federal Historic Tax Credit, a list of endorsing organizations and a sample letter to send your Representative can be found on the PreservationNation website.

Erica Stewart is the outreach coordinator for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Public Affairs department.


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 Spirited Comeback

Posted on: July 8th, 2011 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 4 Comments

 

By Charlotte Cottier

Rifino Valentine with his Michigan-made vodka. (Photo: National Trust)

Over the past several years, the visible decline of the Detroit area - from the city itself to the smaller towns that surround it - has caught the nation’s imagination. With image after haunting image of ghostly vacant blocks and countless gloomy editorials, sometimes it seems like the media has already written the region off. However, amidst the rubble of times past, a new breed of locally-minded, dedicated entrepreneurs has decided it’s time to give southeastern Michigan new life. In the city of Ferndale, on the very edge of Detroit, one such businessman has successfully turned an innovative vision into a thriving company with true staying power.

“I’ve always been one of those people who appreciates handmade stuff - appreciates how things are supposed to be made,” says Rifino Valentine, owner of Valentine Distilling Company, “and now I have the chance to be the producer.” Valentine’s story is slightly unconventional; he got his start as a small business owner midway through a big business career as a day trader on Wall Street.

Valentine spent 13 years developing his background in economics and business in New York City during the day, but at night he indulged in a different pursuit entirely: the search for the perfect dirty martini. Somewhere along the line, Valentine’s night-time search started to develop new meaning. “When I would ask for the best vodka that these bars could give me, I was always served an imported product,” he explains.“And I started thinking, why can’t we make the best right here, where we are drinking it? Why can’t we make world-class vodka in the United States?”

It turns out that Valentine was more than curious about this idea; he was committed to making it a reality. In 2005 he left his job in New York and moved back to his home state of Michigan to open up his own artisanal distillery. He decided that he wanted to set up his business in the Detroit area, both to function as an economic stimulus for the area, and also to work the city he loves into his brand. “Detroit gets such a bad rap—it’s the butt of so many jokes—but at the same time people love it and its grittiness,” says Valentine.

The Valentine Distilling Company building in Ferndale. (Photo: National Trust)

When it came time to pick the distillery’s exact location, Ferndale really stood out. “When I was just starting, I called and left a message for the Ferndale city planner just to throw some ideas around about locating there, and she called back within five minutes with a list of potential properties for me,” says Valentine. Cristina Sheppard-Decius, executive director of the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority (DDA), the city’s Great American Main Street Award-winning program, says that the placement of Valentine Distillery in Ferndale grew out of great communication and cooperation between the DDA, the Ferndale Community Development Department (a branch of the city government), and Valentine himself.

Ferndale was incorporated as a city in 1927, and the factory building that Valentine chose for his distillery was built in 1928, so it truly is an original piece of the city’s history. The building’s last use before Valentine moved in was as a high-end, custom pool table manufacturer called “Wolverine Billiards.” Valentine emphasizes this legacy—from handcrafted billiard tables to handcrafted vodka—it’s all within the speakeasy, Detroit-made brand that he has created.

Valentine kept a strong preservation and reuse ethic throughout the entire construction process. “We used reclaimed materials for the renovations: bricks from buildings that have been knocked down in Detroit, old factory windows—and our bar is made out of wooden beams from Michigan barns.” This “keep it local” philosophy extends to Valentine’s supply-chain network; 99 percent of his bottles are Michigan-made, as are his boxes, bottle decorations, t-shirts, and, perhaps most importantly, the grains that are used in the vodka. He explains, “We can’t keep going the way we are- exporting knowledge and importing finished products. Especially in times like these we need to support our own. If one out of every 10 bottles of alcohol … sold in Michigan were actually made here, close to $100 million would stay in the state.”

At Valentine’s recent opening, he spoke about how the distillery’s proximity to Detroit has been an overwhelming positive. “He had such a wonderful story and message. He spoke about how Michigan will make a comeback with entrepreneurs like him,” says Sheppard-Decius, “People that think out of the box and have something new to offer—and we agree.”

Charlotte Cottier in an intern with the National Trust Main Street Center.

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.