Revitalization

Main Street Monday: Road Trip Edition

Posted on: April 4th, 2011 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Written by Erica Stewart

Here’s our second installation of Main Street Monday, a monthly round-up of news stories that celebrate America’s historic downtowns and neighborhoods business districts and those people who strive to make them vibrant centers of community life.

Lititz, Pennsylvania (Photo: Flickr user Rob Watski)

Lititz, Pennsylvania (Photo: Flickr user Rob Watski)

With spring weather finally, fitfully unfolding in many parts of the country, this recent story by CNBC on towns that are worthy road trip destinations had me daydreaming. Paducah, Kentucky, Lititz, Pennsylvania and San Angelo, Texas are among those CNBC affectionately named “Time Warp Towns”. According to a local news story out of Paducah about the moniker, Time Warp Towns are “…downtowns populated with former Woolworths-turned-antique-booth malls, neon signs for Rheingold or Schaeffer, gingerbread detailing, town squares, monuments, cobblestones, and/or apple pie!”  Fans of Paducah and San Angelo must really be tickled, as this recognition comes on the heels of making the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2011 Dozen Distinctive Destination list.

Manistee, Michigan's Vogue Theater. (Photo: Flickr user Farlane)

Manistee, Michigan's Vogue Theater. (Photo: Flickr user Farlane)

Whether you’re fond of his films or not, there’s no debating Michael Moore’s devotion to Michigan’s historic downtown theatres. In 2007, Moore jumpstarted a volunteer-driven rehabilitation of the State Theatre in Traverse City that has won rave reviews—both for the top-notch restoration (in just six weeks!) and its tremendous downtown revitalization impact. Mr. Moore recently announced his next act will be the abandoned Vogue Theatre in Manistee, Michigan. He spoke in front of an enthusiastic crowd (especially considering the 10-degree weather) in Manistee to kick start the ambitious rehabilitation plan with his own $10,000 donation and a rousing call to action. The Downtown Development Authority has purchased the theatre, the development team is being assembled, and citizens are donating time and money to support the $1 million rehab. With that, the stage is set for a stunning transformation that puts a 73-year old theatre in the starring role of the community’s revitalization.

Our third story, to be filed under the Main Street® Really Works category, comes from Laramie, Wyoming where a regional CBS affiliate reports this community of 27,000 near the Colorado border is bucking the trend. At a time when our nation’s economic news is more bad than good, the Laramie Main Street program is driving investment downtown, drawing in new businesses, and helping existing ones grow and expand. Laramie has 300 businesses in the downtown district. Ten new ones opened in the last year, four in the last month. Business owners cite the district’s attractive, historic buildings, walkability, and the free marketing and promotion services offered by the nonprofit Laramie Main Street as strong selling points. Executive Director Trey Sherwood is working hard to keep the good news coming, interviewing potential businesses to fill the few vacancies downtown, and brainstorming with existing ones to keep cash registers ringing. Sounds like this “gem city of the plains”, a Preserve America community, deserves a place on summer road trip itineraries as well!

Erica Stewart is the outreach coordinator for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Communications and Marketing 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.

Preservation Round-Up: Thriving Main Streets Edition

Posted on: March 7th, 2011 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Written by Erica Stewart

With the news dominated this past week by possible federal government shutdowns, showdowns on the state house steps, and of course, crazy Charlie Sheen rants, it was very refreshing to encounter three uplifting stories from places that are surviving, even thriving, in times of recession. Despite differing geography, population, economy and attributes, each example offers strong testimony to the power of Main Street to make our historic downtowns vibrant places to live, work and play—whatever the economy.

The first is courtesy of NBC Nightly News Reporter Roger O’Neil who visited Thomasville, Georgia, home to a robust Main Street revitalization program, in search of the secret to keeping its downtown humming. Despite its small population of 20,000 and the effects of the nation’s slumping economy, downtown Thomasville is thriving. Recession? What recession? Only one restaurant out of 15 in downtown Thomasville has closed, and only one of its 40 businesses has shuttered. This news comes as no great surprise to folks familiar with the National Trust’s Main Street Four Point Approach, a comprehensive revitalization strategy that uses a community’s unique assets to drive its future. Check out the clip for the keys to Downtown Thomasville’s success.

The second story takes us to the heartland, where Main Street Iowa (MSI) has reached a staggering milestone. MSI, the statewide program that coordinates the application of the Main Street approach in participating communities, announced that its local programs have attracted more than $1 billion in private investment over MSI’s 25-year history! That’s about $79 private dollars for every public dollar. MSI also expects to surpass the two million mark in volunteer hours dedicated to local Main Street programs, representing $33 million in donated time. 2011 is shaping up to be quite a banner year, as Main Street Iowa will soon welcome legions of downtown revitalization professionals, planners, officials and enthusiasts to Des Moines for the annual National Main Streets Conference in May (if you think your community could use a million or two, better meet us in Des Moines).

Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh's Bloomfield neighborhood. (Photo: Brian Cohen, www.briancohenphotography.com)

Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh's Bloomfield neighborhood. (Photo: Brian Cohen, www.briancohenphotography.com)

The third story takes us to the hilly neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, where once-moribund neighborhood commercial districts are starting to come alive. Take Mt. Washington, for example, and its Shiloh Street—the undisputed heart of the neighborhood that was bled dry by suburban competition starting in the 1960s. Today, thanks to the slow and steady Main Street approach, signs of life abound: “once vacant stores that are now filled with people, young families strolling the blocks, and colorful murals that have replaced the graffiti.” Its interesting architecture and unique independent business brings people out on the streets, making them safer and livelier. Mt. Washington used to be plagued by commercial vacancies. Now it has only one, and that is temporarily being leased by a church. This rejuvenation is not unique to Mt. Washington. The city has 10 Main Street programs that are reclaiming their historic neighborhood business districts without losing their soul.

Erica Stewart is the outreach coordinator for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Communications and Marketing 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.

New Allotment Allows for Additional Historic Rehabilitation Projects

Posted on: February 24th, 2011 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Erica Stewart

Baltimore's American Brewery building. (Photo: Paul Burk)

Baltimore's American Brewery building. (Photo: Paul Burk)

Today was a good day for fans of historic real estate development. This morning, the National Trust’s historic real estate investment subsidiary, the National Trust Community Investment Corporation (NTCIC) was awarded $29 28 million in New Markets Tax Credit authority by the CDFI Fund of the U.S. Treasury. This means that NTCIC can continue to utilize this tax credit to help finance the rehabilitation of vacant or underutilized historic buildings which bring essential jobs, tax revenue and goods and services to low-income neighborhoods.

Equally exciting was the fact that the announcement ceremony was held at the American Brewery building, a structure that underwent a $23 million historic rehabilitation that was financed in part by NTCIC’s $5.3 million historic and New Markets Tax Credit equity investment. Completed in 2009, the project converted a five story, Italianate-style brewhouse built in 1887 and that had stood vacant for thirty years into stunning program and office headquarters space for Humanim, Inc. Humanim is a 40 year old nonprofit organization that provides educational, vocational and clinical service programs for individuals with developmental, emotional, neurological and physical disabilities.

One of the completed interior spaces in the American Brewery building. (Photo: Paul Burk)

One of the completed interior spaces in the American Brewery building. (Photo: Paul Burk)

The rehabilitation generated significant tax revenues, construction jobs and household and business income in a severely underserved community: the neighborhood is part of a census tract with a 51% poverty rate and an unemployment rate more than four times the national average. Once completed, Humanin relocated its 250 employees to the American Brewery building and hired locally to fill an additional 40 jobs.  Moreover, the return of the American Brewery building as a proud anchor for the neighborhood, where it had been an eyestore for so long, gives a tremendous boost to community pride and optimism that better times lie ahead.

NTCIC President John Leith-Tetrault expressed his enthusiasm for the project in his remarks at the ceremony, saying, “If you are in our business: demonstrating that historic buildings can play an important role in revitalizing low-income communities, it doesn’t get any better than this.”

Erica Stewart is the outreach coordinator for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Communications and Marketing department.

Updated 2/27/2011 to reflect correct allocation amount.

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.

The “Energy-Saving House” That Saves History—and Maybe Our Future, Too

Posted on: December 10th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Written by Erica Stewart

Knox Heritage, the National Trust’s citywide preservation partner in Knoxville, Tenn. is demonstrating with their latest project that preservation is not only green, but also on the cutting edge of sustainable technologies. It’s so-called “Green House” historic rehab strives to illustrate how historic preservation principles can be compatible with new energy-saving technologies, keeping preservation at the forefront of advances in building materials and systems.

Knox Heritage (KH) has a long history of acquiring and rehabbing neglected single family Victorian-era homes for re-sale in Knoxville’s historic districts. It’s most recent work is concentrated in World’s Fair Park in the Historic Fort Sanders neighborhood, which is considered an inner-city neighborhood. Here KH has worked with development partners, Cardinal Development and Kinsey Probasco Hays to rehab and sell six historic homes.

In honor of this partnership, the development firms donated a circa 1880s house to Knox Heritage for its rehab, which KH has decided to make its first LEED-for-Homes-certified historic rehabilitation. That Knox Heritage chose this house in particular to serve as a demonstration project is poignant. During the 1982 World’s Fair the house was refurbished, along with the six Victorian houses around it, to host visitors from around the globe. It was known as “The Energy Saving House” since it was designed to demonstrate the latest technology for conserving energy.

Unfortunately, retaining the home’s historic fabric was completely disregarded. Nearly all of the interior detailing was removed and the original floorplan was altered drastically. All the windows were replaced. The east and north sides of the house sprouted a metal and glass atrium and solar panels and skylights were visible on the roof. The priority was clearly new technology, not the house’s historical integrity.

Today, with funding from the City of Knoxville’s Solar America Cities program, (a U.S. Department of Energy program bestowed on 25 cities) and numerous sponsors (including the National Trust Loan Fund), volunteer experts, and supporters, the house will again be a demonstration of energy efficiency—but this time, while also respecting its historical character. In fact, great care is being taken to return historical elements to the property using salvaged materials, including historic trim, doors and flooring. Exterior siding and roofing and windows have been replaced with historically appropriate and salvaged materials.

Equally painstaking has been the selection of energy-efficient systems and solar technologies that maintain the aesthetic appeal and historic character of the property. For example, the hot water system is being installed under the roofing material to gather thermal energy, and a photovoltaic film—the same color as the traditional standing seam metal roof—will be applied to generate power that will be purchased by the regional power company. This is a solar solution that many historic homeowners can consider and is fully approved by the Knoxville Historic Zoning Commission.

Recycled materials that were manufactured within 500 miles are also being sourced for the project, such as recycled cellulose insulation. The product has a small carbon footprint, reduces heat loss and provides a useful sound buffer for its future residents. Other touches include low-flow water fixtures and CFC lighting.

But it isn’t only the future residents who will benefit from this effort. To ensure greater awareness of green technology that is compatible with preservation goals, Knox Heritage has organized educational sessions for local/regional contractors and open house events for its members and local citizens. Furthermore, the project is part of a study by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to measure its energy-efficiency (Knox Heritage is hoping to demonstrate a 50% reduction in energy consumption). The Green House’s data will be compared to other homes in the study that have been rehabbed in a similar fashion: making the building more air-tight; weatherizing the attic, crawl space and windows; upgrading heating and cooling units, water heaters, appliances and lighting; and installing solar technology.

Regardless of the actual study results, the Green House stands as an opportunity for other builders, architects and homeowners to learn from and as an inspiration to incorporate its lessons.

Now that would be a green house effect to be proud of.

For a video tour of the project and the Green House’s supporting cast and star performers, watch Knox Heritage’s You Tube video below. Find Knox Heritage on Facebook, Twitter or on the web for updates.

(oh, and that gold geodesic dome visible in the video is not a rooftop installation on the Green House, but rather the “Home of the Future” built for the 1982 World’s Fair.)

Erica Stewart is the outreach coordinator for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s community revitalization department.

Editor's Note: Due to an Internet outage at National Trust headquarters, this was posted by phone. Apologies for any typos or errors with the photo or video. Links and author information will be added when the Internet is again available. Updates made December 13, 2010.

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 Second Chance at Rehabilitation: Salem’s Old Jail Comes to Life

Posted on: October 29th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

This is the latest in a series of posts celebrating the 10th anniversary of the National Trust Community Investment Corporation (NTCIC) by sharing some of its biggest successes.

Written by Erica Stewart

The Old Salem Jail, before restoration.

The Old Salem Jail, before restoration.

Say “Salem, Massachusetts,” and of course, the Salem Witch Trials springs to mind. There are ample reasons to think Salem might have some wronged spirits still haunting the place. And among those inclined to think so, the Old Salem Jail had the reputation for being one of the most haunted sites in town. But now, thanks to a $10.7 million historic rehabilitation, the jail site is now synonymous with 50 St. Peter Street, an award-winning complex of 23 upscale apartments, a restaurant, and a museum that immortalizes the jail’s history and its imposing architectural impact.

Originally built in 1813, the hulking granite main jail building held 100 cells and witnessed 50 hangings under its roof. The jail is joined by a Federal-style jail master’s house, a wooden carriage house, and the Howard Cemetery, scene of many executions, including one famous one. Amid complaints of crowding and small cells, a federal judge closed the jail in 1991, ruling it unfit for human habitation. It was the oldest continually operating jail in the country at the time. The site was given to the city of Salem in 1999 and an RFP process began but no qualified bids were received. Ultimately, the Redevelopment Authority took ownership and awarded developer, New Boston Ventures the right to develop the site in 2006.

Envisioning high-end apartments in a jail that had been left abandoned for two decades amid aggressive weeds and barbed wire fences was ambitious, but actually pulling off the transformation was bolder still. The project was beset by numerous challenges, not the least of which was the bottom falling out of the economy in 2008.

“We had so many things happen that I think would have scared off a lot of people,” said David Goldman, founder of New Boston Ventures, the developer that invested in the renovation. “The economy alone, I think a lot of people thought we were crazy at different points during the project.”

The Old Salem Jail, after restoration.

The Old Salem Jail, after restoration.

That poor economy led Goldman to change development plans midstream, dropping the for-sale condominium idea in favor of marketing the units as rental housing for at least five years, which would enable the project to qualify for federal historic tax credits. The tax credit represented a significant equity infusion once an investor was found for the credit, a transaction that was brokered by the National Trust Community Investment Corporation. The result was $2.3 million in essential cash to the project during construction.
Goldman also enjoyed the unwavering support of the Mayor’s Office, the jail’s neighbors, and the citizens of Salem. Mayor Kim Driscoll shared his belief that the rehabilitation of the jail was a major opportunity for Salem, and that it had to be done right. Goldman worked hard to make sure the site bore the stamp of its history, and was not some “vanilla” apartment complex that was devoid of the significance of its surroundings.

The developer has certainly succeeded in avoiding a cookie-cutter luxury development. The rehab created 23 units of housing in three structures: the 1813 building, the jail master’s house and a new building that replaced the unsalvageable carriage house. The original jail house units enjoy high ceilings, 14-foot windows, and walls of exposed brick and granite. Outside of each unit’s entry door hangs one of the jail’s original cell doors. The old granite jail floor was reused as landscape pavers for the outdoor courtyard. The spiral staircase that led up to the catwalk of the second floor jail cells remains.

... 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.

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.