Baseball stadiums and movie theaters. They're both public gathering spots that are commonly found in cities both large and small across the United States. But it's not every day that you find someone so passionate about both as San Francisco's Alfonso Felder.

Not only is he a senior vice president with the San Francisco Giants baseball team - where he directs facilities - he's the president of the San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation, a group formed to save and preserve the city's many treasured movie houses. We talked with Alfonso to learn more about how he got where he is today, and what it's like advocating for old theaters across the city he loves so much.

Alfonso Felder, the San Francisco Giants' AT&T Park, and the Vogue Theater. (Photos: Alfonso Felder, Peter576 on Flickr, and David Gallagher on Flickr)

How did you get involved with the San Francisco Giants?

I grew up a fan of the Giants at Candlestick Park and played baseball as a kid. In high school, I was an usher for the Giants, and later got involved with the team's front office through some of the campaigns to build the new ballpark.

AT&T Park is a relatively new stadium. What are you most proud of about the design, and were there preservation values considered when designing it?

I'm proud of the fact that it's really well integrated into the existing urban environment. It feels like it belongs, and its shape is dictated by its unique waterfront site. It's obviously not historic, but I think it feels more like Wrigley Field or Fenway Park than a Disney version of an old park. It feels authentic.

The view from AT&T Park onto the Embarcadero and the China Basin neighborhood. (Photo: jillmotts on Flickr)

What got you interested in theater preservation?

I grew up going to movies with friends in neighborhoods all over San Francisco. It's how I got to know the city and appreciate its diverse neighborhoods. When I started to see many of my favorite theaters close, I knew I wanted to do something about it. I've also always had a healthy interest in architecture - particularly the design of places of public assembly.

The marquee of Balboa Theatre, located in the Outer Richmond neighborhood. (Photo: Whole Wheat Toast on Flickr)

When you're advocating for these old theaters, what are the Foundation's main priorities for reuse? To just save the buildings, or to preserve them as functioning theaters?

We love it when movie theaters stay movie theaters, as few other uses are as effective in maintaining broad public access to the buildings.  Movie theaters are also great anchors for commercial districts, and help to keep streets active at night.  If a theater can't work for movies, some other form of entertainment is a great second option.

Beyond that, other uses that involve public assembly are good because they maintain public access and relate to the original intent of the building - churches and even gyms can fall into this third tier.  A thoughtful retail reuse is preferable to more dramatic conversions like housing, but we always shoot first for an entertainment use. ... 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.

Preservation Round-Up: Hockey's Oldest Arenas Edition

Posted on: March 15th, 2012 by David Garber 1 Comment


Toronto's old Maple Leaf Gardens arena is now home to a grocery store and smaller university arena. (Photo: Derek Flack, BlogTO)

The Changing Fate of Hockey's Oldest Arenas - The Atlantic Cities

"In a league that cherishes tradition, the half-dozen franchises that comprised the entire NHL until its 1967 expansion are held in particularly high regard, seen as the cultural and historic pillars of the league. With that image comes an equally significant aura to the grounds that once hosted them. Sadly, only two of these six arenas still stand, both in Canada."

And this follow-up...

Finding a reuse for historic arenas - Preservation Alliance of Minnesota

"This article from Atlantic Cities about the fate of a number of the arenas for the “Original 6″ teams in the NHL caught my eye because I am a diehard Boston Bruins fan and one of my strongest childhood memories is being in a car, driving past the half-demolished Boston Garden. Some may have marveled at the sight of this monumental building ripped half open to the world, still able to see the remaining seats in the arena, was pretty cool, I was heartbroken."

Show Us The Thumping, Pulsing 'Heart' Of Your City - NPR

"From the coffee shop on the corner to the park down the street, all urbanites have a place they think of as the heart of their city. It's where you go when you want to feel like a citizen of Memphis, New York City or San Francisco. It's the place you think of as synonymous with Atlanta, Washington, D.C., or Portland, Ore. It's what you talk about when someone asks, "What's Chicago like?" And even if your local office of tourism has never heard of it, we want to know what and where it is."

National Cathedral's preservation needs top $50M - US News & World Report

"[The] Episcopal cathedral is facing one of the worst financial binds of its 105-year-old history. An earthquake in August severely damaged its intricate stone work and architecture, with repair costs estimated at $20 million. Aside from that damage, the structure faces $30 million in preexisting preservation needs."

Paul Rudolph-Brutalist Landmark in Danger of Demolition - Architizer

"In less than one month’s time, a committee will vote to decide the future of Paul Rudolph’s seminal 1971 Orange County Government Center. The Brutalist building, a masterful essay in sectional composition, has never quite performed as intended by Rudolph, who designed the structure with 80-plus roof planes that have leaked without fail ever since the center’s opening."

On Demolition and Historic Districts - Geneva Patch

"It is easy to be a good citizen when everyone is fat and happy with a strong economy. It is harder when economic conditions force these unpleasant choices to the table.  Demolition is a one-way trip. Just because the economy is down does not make a property less historically valuable."

Micropolitan Manifesto: A Call to Radically Remake and Revitalize Our Smallest Cities - Urban Escapee

"This is a manifesto about cities and business, but certainly not business-as-usual. It’s a belief in building community, resurrecting place, and making a difference in the world. Most of all, it’s about ambition, creativity, and people."

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.

Preservation Round-Up: College Towns Are Happy Towns Edition

Posted on: March 12th, 2012 by David Garber 2 Comments


[If you're a regular reader, you'll notice that we've changed the look of the blog. Our redesign is still in transition, so please bear with us while we work out all the kinks! -David]

Charlottesville, Virginia, during last summer's Look3 Festival of the Photograph. (Photo: bobtravis on Flickr)

Why College Towns Are Happy Towns - The Atlantic Cities

"Happiness defies broad geographic rubrics like Sunbelt and Frostbelt. Here, the contrast between Detroit and nearby Ann Arbor is striking. Ann Arbor's happiness levels and human capital more closely resemble  Boulder, Austin, and Silicon Valley than any Rust Belt city."

How Four Women Revived a Derelict Mississippi Town - The New York Times

"What is especially appealing about Water Valley, besides its proximity to Oxford, home to the University of Mississippi and a 25-minute drive away, is that properties haven’t been altered much since the lion’s share of them were built between 1885 and the 1920s."

Secretary Salazar Designates Thirteen New National Historic Landmarks - U.S. Department of the Interior

"Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced the designation of 13 new National Historic Landmarks in nine different states, including a site associated with the famed Apache scouts, the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in the world, and an early 18th-century parish church."

Closer look at plans for Pillsbury A Mill site - StarTribune

"A Twin Cities-based developer is in the final stages of planning the $100 million conversion of the historic Pillsbury A Mill complex, which is expected to offer affordable housing for artists. [...] Because of that historic designation, few changes can be made to the exterior of the building; renderings released Thursday show few changes to the facade, but major changes to courtyards that connect several buildings."

The Death (and Life?) of Miami's Marine Stadium - The Atlantic Cities

"Designed by Cuban-American architect Hilario Candela when he was a 27-year-old devotee of Mid-Century Modernism, Miami Marine Stadium opened on Dec. 27, 1963, as a venue for power-boat racing. Young and enamored with Frank Lloyd Wright and Corbusier, Candela saw the building as his opportunity to give Miami a structure that captured its own young spirit."

Case Closed: Manufacturers Hanover Trust Building - Daily Icon

"An agreement reached with preservationists for the Manufacturers Hanover Trust building, a Modernist masterpiece designed by Gordon Bunshaft for Skidmore Owings and Merrill (SOM) in 1954. As part of the agreement, Vornado, the building’s current owner, asked the Landmarks Preservation Commission to amend the certificate of appropriateness issued in April 2011 to allow the reinstallation of two Harry Bertoia sculptures."

David Garber is the blog editor 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.

Is Miami Marine Stadium the Next High Line?

Posted on: February 21st, 2012 by David Garber


It seems like everyone's talking about "the next High Line." And why not? Who wouldn't want to see the same wild success that the redevelopment of New York City's abandoned elevated rail structure into a unique linear park has brought? What began as an unpopular - to the city, at least - preservation issue has now catapulted into one of the city's top tourist and resident attractions and has sparked over $2 billion in surrounding private investment.

Miami Marine Stadium looking towards the city. (Photo: Vik Cuban on Flickr)

The Miami Marine Stadium, one of our 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2009, is one of those "next cool place" contenders. Built in 1963, the waterfront stadium has many of the same ingredients that the High Line had before getting its green makeover: passionate supporters, urban grit, awesome views, and a distinctive architectural foundation.

Looking up at the stands and the stadium's iconic roofline. (Photo: Vik Cuban on Flickr)

But one of the biggest lessons from the adaptive reuse of the High Line is that it takes more than passion, interest, and big ideas to get massive projects like these off the ground. Unless 100% private funding falls into place, there has to be a marriage of public interest and public funding. Fortunately for Miami, that marriage is already producing results.

Significant work would need to be done to bring the stadium to any modern use. (Photo: Vik Cuban on Flickr)

This past weekend, The Miami Herald featured a story on Friends of the High Line founder Robert Hammond's visit to Miami Marine Stadium and what needs to happen to bring this project to life:

Not coincidentally, Hammond’s visit came at a critical moment for the four-year-old marine stadium campaign, which has proceeded in fits and starts. Activists have succeeded in saving the 1963 structure from the wrecking ball, won historic landmark protection for it and generated worldwide admiration for its still-dazzling architecture and engineering.

Leaders of the nonprofit Friends group had hoped to also formally announce an agreement with the city granting the organization the right to undertake the stadium’s renovation, but that has been delayed amid disagreement over details of the deal.

Last year, stadium supporters were ready to walk away in frustration over what they said in a letter were “obstacles’’ imposed by the city, but they now say the deal should be approved soon by the city commission.

The agreement would give the Friends organization, an offshoot of Dade Heritage Trust, two years to raise an estimated $30 million to renovate the stadium, shuttered by the city in 1992 after it was damaged by Hurricane Andrew. Worth said the group has secured more than $10 million of that, including $3 million in public funds.

“The advocacy battle has been won, and we’re at the cusp of the next stage,’’ Friends co-founder Don Worth said. “Now we have to do it.’’

Read the full article "Can the Miami Marine Stadium become the next High Line phenom?" to learn more and see pictures of Hammond's visit to the site.

David Garber is the blog editor 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.

Preservation Round-Up: Beachfront Beax-Arts Edition

Posted on: October 24th, 2011 by David Garber 2 Comments


The 1927 Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial is in danger of being demolished. (Photo: Flickr user Waikiki Natatorium)

As I was compiling the stories for today's Preservation Round-Up, I was struck by the diversity of places, buildings, and things reported on across the country. Below you'll find links about a beachfront swimming stadium in Hawaii, sleek, modern houses on both coasts, the meticulous preservation of a 200-year old Boston Federal, the ongoing discussion of "gentrification" and how to justly rebuild neighborhoods, and even those roadside "Welcome to" signs. But what struck me in particular about the diversity was that simplest of points: these are the kinds of places and buildings and things that give depth to America's story -- however simple or small or silly they or the causes they represent may seem on their own.

In Honolulu, Hawaii, preservationists are rallying to save the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium, a beachfront swimming stadium built in 1927 and designed in the Hawaiian Beax-Arts style.

From the New York Times: "Ever wonder how Philip Johnson managed to live in a fishbowl? If he needed a nap, he sometimes walked across the lawn from his famous Glass House in New Canaan, Conn., to the lesser-known Brick House, where an upholstered bedroom, like something from the Arabian Nights, awaited."

Great news in Beverly Hills! The 1955 Richard Neutra-designed Kronish House, which was previously featured in a Round-Up, has been purchased by new owners that plan to restore the modernist home.

The restoration of Boston's Anna Clapp Harris Smith House is chugging along, with the restored facade now almost finished.

From Kaid Benfield on Atlantic Cities: "Fashioning the more equitable, prosperous, and sustainable cities of the future will require more, not less, revitalization and more, not fewer, new residents. But it will also require providing high-quality affordable housing in neighborhoods where revitalization is occurring. It will require bringing existing residents to the table early and often in the planning process, but to help shape good neighborhood development, not to prevent it."

Anyone out there preserving highway-side welcome signs?

David Garber is a member of the Digital and New Media team at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He can be found on twitter at @GarberDC.

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.

Student Designers Give Historic Ballfield and Mill New Lives

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


Written by Renee Kuhlman

I recently saw some amazing designs generated by kids from middle schools across the country during the 2011 School of the Future Design Competition. This competition, hosted by Council for Educational Facility Planners International in honor of School Building Week, is fiercely competitive with regional competitions leading up to the big finale in Washington, DC. The six finalists were all impressive, but the two that made me stand up and cheer were the designs from Heritage Middle School (Wake Forest, North Carolina) and Seneca Middle School (Macomb, Michigan). Why? Because they used the preservation concept of adaptive use in their designs—from the famous but now gone Tiger Stadium in Detroit to the Glen Royal Mills building. Check out their stories.

Ben Malian, Seneca Middle School Student, Macomb, Michigan

Macomb, Michigan students reused the historic ballfield from Tiger Stadium as the center of their school of the future. This “hallowed ground” would once again host athletic activities and would be surrounded by classrooms, dorms, and gardens. (Photo: Seneca Middle School Design Team)

Macomb, Michigan students reused the historic ballfield from Tiger Stadium as the center of their school of the future. This “hallowed ground” would once again host athletic activities and would be surrounded by classrooms, dorms, and gardens. (Photo: Seneca Middle School Design Team)

You may wonder why middle school students would choose an old major league baseball park to build a school of the future. This is because to us and our fellow Detroiters, this is not just an ordinary ballpark. It is hallowed ground to many of us. Tiger Stadium opened on April 12, 1912. This date may ring a bell because it was the same day that Fenway Park in Boston opened and it was also the tragic day of the sinking of the Titanic. Although the stadium is almost one hundred years old and has been demolished for two years, the land is still cared for by Detroiters who play baseball on it today. They also do all the landscaping and still raise the flag in center field. To pay back for the kind deeds these people have done for the ballpark, we decided to use this hallowed ground to build a school of the future in a district that has its own share of educational issues.

Children of Detroit often struggle socially and educationally. We felt that by combining an urban recovery project with a school of the future would only have positive outcomes. We really focused on the test scores and attendance rates of Detroit students and compared them to Japanese children. The Japanese students had much higher scores and attendance due to the length and attendance of the school year as well as the curriculum. Can you imagine how attendance rates at the school could improve if students knew their school was built on the grounds of Tiger Stadium?  We tried to incorporate this along with teaching students to live a happy and healthy life.

Tiger Stadium is a place that does not deserve to be left abandoned or forgotten. It should be cared for and loved by all Detroiters and people in the surrounding area.

The Heritage Middle School Design Team, Wake Forest, North Carolina

Wake Forest, NC students reused the historic Glen Royal Mills building for their “school of the future.” To incorporate the school into the community they designed a café, study hall, library, and fitness trail to be used by both students and residents. (Photo: Heritage Middle School Design Team)

Wake Forest, NC students reused the historic Glen Royal Mills building for their “school of the future.” To incorporate the school into the community they designed a café, study hall, library, and fitness trail to be used by both students and residents. (Photo: Heritage Middle School Design Team)

Geographically, Wake Forest is ideal for a School of the Future. Our rapidly-growing town is overflowing with history, potential, and innovation. We decided that to use existing resources and save money we would retrofit an existing structure for our School of the Future. Our research of the Wake Forest Community led us to the historic Glen Royal Mills building. Greatly influenced by Glen Royal Mills distinct brick exterior, we were led to a retro-modern interior design theme. The interior is overflowing with eclectic and timeless features such as the furniture, paint, flooring, lighting, and the green aspects. We incorporated more than just basic eco-friendly additions, such as LED lighting, low VOC paints, natural lighting, and cork flooring but also more recent and innovative pieces such as recycled aluminum chairs, Solatubes, a green roof, transitional classrooms and rain barrels that collect rainfall to provide gray water for our gardens and toilets.

Another key feature of our school is its power generation capabilities. Three alternative energy sources are all generated on campus and routed through our own “power plant.” We were inspired to use passive and active solar power from a recent S.T.E.M club field trip to the NC State Solar House, which is a complete eco-home equipped with a state-of-the-art solar system. Our most prominent power source is our solar track, which is integrated with photovoltaic material that soaks in solar energy. Also included are solar awnings and wind power from wind mills. In addition, we heat and cool our building with a ground source geothermal HVAC system.

To better incorporate our school into the community landscape the building features several areas that the public will be invited to use. The café and study hall are spacious and relaxed areas in which the local population can enjoy a healthy and affordable meal or just take advantage of a comfortable and quiet learning environment. The community can also visit the fitness trail located in the central-park-inspired arboretum that has several fitness stations set with exercise equipment. The library, which is also a local branch of the Wake County Public Library system, allows residents to access books, Kindles, computers and other materials. Accessibility features such as elevators, ramps, and handicap-accessible buses are available for disabled individuals and elderly visitors.

A colleague of mine was also impressed when I related these stories – he remarked “these kids understand preservation and its importance to a community better than our own generation.” Don’t know about you, but seeing their designs made me feel very optimistic about the future planning of our schools and our communities.

Renee Kuhlman directs the Helping Johnny Walk to School program which emphasizes that schools can help meet many community goals such as sustaining surrounding neighborhoods and downtowns, increasing active transportation, and being a place where residents can gather.

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.