Main Street Towns Make the Cut in Money Magazine List

Posted on: August 11th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Andrea L. Dono

Downtown Medina, Oh.

Downtown Medina, Oh.

Every year, Money magazine rates America’s 100 best small towns to live. In the August 2009 issue, we were thrilled to see that 10 out of the 100 were Main Street towns. This year’s list includes Liberty, Mo.; Suwanee, Ga.; Medina, Ohio; Rochester, Mich.; Mt. Airy, Md.; Batavia, Ill.; Simsbury, Conn.; Pewaukee, Wisc.; Emmaus, Penn.; and Concord, N.H.
A closer look at Rochester, Michigan, reveals a suburb of Detroit that has an unemployment rate that is lower than most of the country, as well as 82 acres of parkland, three waterways, and many rehabbed 19th century buildings in its downtown.

Kristi Trevarrow, the director of the local Main Street program in Rochester tells us that her town had its debut on the list in 2005 and so she was pleased to get listed again this year. “For us to make it back on the list in a down economy is pretty phenomenal, especially since our area has been hit pretty hard by everything happening in the auto industry,” Kristi says, pointing out that Chrysler’s headquarters is 15 minutes from downtown. “I had the opportunity to talk to Money magazine writers because they called our office to get information about the local economy. They seemed impressed by the amount of new businesses opening and the small number of businesses closing, so I think that made a difference.”

Summer on the square in Medina, Oh.

Summer on the square in Medina, Oh.

A look at Medina, Ohio, will show a town square surrounded by impeccably rehabbed historic buildings. “Many communities have at least one eyesore building or one white elephant, but we fortunately do not,” boasts Matthew Wiederhold, executive director of Main Street Medina. “We also have a fantastic school system and a strong arts presence in the community, while still maintaining a very small-town atmosphere.”

Matthew feels the Main Street program was a contributing factor to helping get Medina named to the list. He cites the fact that Medina raised the bar for historic preservation in Ohio and that the revitalization organization assisted local businesses while promoting the historic district as a destination.

Given the charms of small towns, high quality of life, historic settings, and interesting local businesses, we’re not surprised that these Main Street towns made the cut. Money magazine sought towns with populations 8,500 to 50,000 and compared various statistics and amenities, such as crime rates, arts funding, restaurants, and air quality, of each location against the Best Places average.

Money magazine’s full list is available here.

Andrea L. Dono is an associate editor for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 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.

 

I occasionally find myself a bit miffed with smart growthers and new urbanists, but not because I disagree with the tenets of these movements.

To the contrary, the principles of dense mixed-use neighborhoods, with ample green space and transit accessibility, are the hallmarks of any quality urban environment. What concerns me is that the good folks from these movements often don’t acknowledge that the principles underlying smart growth and new urbanism are based largely on the way our communities used to be planned – or used to develop over time more or less organically.

Rather than inventing or discovering a new urban form, smart growthers and new urbanists have rediscovered the principles that were the foundation of our older and historic communities. So, when we turn to the problem of living in a more sustainable manner, we needn't start from scratch.  We can achieve many of our sustainability goals by reinvesting in our older and historic neighborhoods.

I was tickled to see this blog post, Viva 1910…, which was forwarded to me by Mike Jackson, my colleague and the chief architect at the Illinois State Historic Preservation Office.  Planner Christopher Ryan highlights the reasons why our future sustainable cities might just be the ones that we built 100 or more years ago. “The era around 1910,” he notes, “possessed a number of attributes that sustainability advocates are pinpointing as being standards that would not only work well within a sustainability framework but also could offer a measure of comfort, ease of living, and familiarity.”

Ryan explains that the dominant urban form of early 20th century America – a compact urban space with mixed-use buildings built up to the sidewalk – is “ideal for pedestrian movement.” Furthermore, “many of the townscapes and city centers that were developed between the 1870's and up to World War I are still viable and in many cases very attractive and interesting places to visit, shop, and live.” 

We preservationists have long advocated for reinvestment in older and historic neighborhoods as a sustainable development strategy.  But it’s nice to see this message coming from outside the preservation community – and good that older cities are getting their due.

Patrice Frey is the director of sustainability research for 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.

 

Many of us have been saying it for a long time, but now it has been verified through a recent public opinion poll—the citizens of New Orleans and political leadership are in two completely different places (literally and figuratively) when it comes to where to build a new LSU hospital. And it could have implications for the next round of municipal elections.

While city officials have been pushing the plan to build a new LSU hospital in Lower Mid-City, the citizens of New Orleans aren't buying it. Sixty percent of registered voters polled said that they favored building a new modern hospital within the shell of old Charity Hospital instead, with only 30 percent favoring LSU’s and the politicians’ plan. (The remainder didn’t know or didn’t respond to this question.)

Dr. Edward Renwick, a highly respected political scientist in New Orleans who is frequently sought-after for his analysis of the local electorate, surveyed 504 registered voters in Orleans Parish recently on, among other things, their attitudes about the LSU hospital plans, their views of elected officials, and how politicians’ stances on the hospital plans might affect the voters’ choice of the next mayor of New Orleans. The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus 4.5 points.

The voters of New Orleans are an engaged group of people—likely more engaged now than ever before. Ninety percent of those surveyed had heard a lot or a little about LSU’s plans. Eighty percent had heard about the alternative to rebuild within Charity’s shell. And given the choice, they favored a return to Charity two-to-one.

Further distancing themselves from the stance of the city’s current leadership, 64 percent of the voters surveyed said they would prefer a mayoral candidate in the next election who would consider alternatives to the LSU hospital plans, and not continue Mayor Nagin’s approach to push the LSU hospital plan into Lower Mid-City.

Two-to-one, registered voters said they believe that the Charity-rebuild option would cause faster recovery and economic development in the city’s Central Business District.

This is an important wake-up call for the city’s political leadership, the business community, state legislators, the governor, LSU, and federal officials. The citizens of New Orleans know what they want, and they don’t want what the chosen few are telling them they need to have.

The disparity between the citizens’ views and the positions of our leadership should be taken seriously. If the position of the current leadership doesn’t change, the voters will see to it that they get the representation they expect and deserve.

The poll was commissioned by Smart Growth for Louisiana, a non-profit New Orleans-based organization that supports citizen participation and transparency in planning. It was conducted July 20-27, 2009.

Learn more about our efforts to save Mid-City New Orleans.

Walter W. Gallas, AICP, is the director of the New Orleans Field Office of 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.

 

Written by Katie Kastner

Foundation discovered at Honouliuli. (Photo: Jill Radke)

Foundation discovered at Honouliuli. (Photo: Jill Radke)

I have been a Partners in the Field Representative with Historic Hawai‘i Foundation (HHF) in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation for the past year. In that time I have had the opportunity to explore many important themes in the history of Hawai‘i, work with and learn about the diverse cultures represented here, and understand that wide range of experiences that different cultures have had in Hawai‘i.

The history of Hawai‘i and the development of the military in the state cannot be told without the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The impact of this attack occurring in such a multicultural territory of the U.S. had profound cultural effects and ultimately changed the cultural dynamics in the islands during this time because of the fear that it struck in those living here in Hawai‘i and throughout the U.S.

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which led to 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry to be detained in camps across the country. In Hawai‘i at this time about 40% of the population was of Japanese descent. Approximately 1,440 people were interned, most of them of Japanese descent, but some of German and Italian ancestry as well. On the island of O‘ahu, detainees were first held at the Sand Island detention center before being moved to the Honouliuli camp, which opened March 1, 1943.

Until just a few years ago, little was known about the location of World War II Japanese Internment camps in Hawai‘i. In fact many people, including myself, were unaware that any Japanese internment camp sites remained in Hawaii. The Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i (JCCH) began researching these sites in an effort to determine where these camps were located and what, if any, evidence of them remains.

Site feature at Honouliuli (Photo: Jill Radke)

Site feature at Honouliuli (Photo: Jill Radke)

JCCH has been working with various organizations including HHF, the University of Hawai‘i, the State Historic Preservation Division, the National Park Service (NPS), and others to identify, preserve and interpret the Japanese internment camp experience in Hawai‘i. Their work has resulted in the identification of internment sites of various sizes on all of the Hawaiian islands. This work has unveiled an important piece of history from the recent past that had until recently been largely unexplored.

... Read More →

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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.

Historic and Modern, DC's School Without Walls is the Best of Both Worlds

Posted on: August 3rd, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 4 Comments

 

Written by Kaitlin Dastugue

The 1897 side of School Without Walls.

The 1893 side of School Without Walls.

Preservationists and neighbors are often charged with making the case for saving historic schools as many outdated and seemingly arbitrary school facilities standards favor destroying an older neighborhood school to build a larger, institutional mega-structure on the far outskirts of town.

Last week, my fellow State and Local Policy intern, Mika, and I, set out to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony for the newly renovated School without Walls, a DC public high school. Armed with literature on school siting and weeks of advocating for historic buildings, we were curious to see an act of historic preservation in the flesh: what educational experience could a historic school offer over new construction? This was a unique chance to see how one community transformed their dilapidated brick school building located in the heart of the Foggy Bottom neighborhood and George Washington University (GWU) into a state-of–the-art high school facility.

All the arguments for rehabilitating older schools over building new ones rang true: they are traditionally smaller—a trait many education scholars attribute to a healthy learning environment. They also anchor neighborhoods, provide facilities for community use, and give students the opportunity to walk or take public transit to school.

The connection between the old and new buildings.

The connection between the old and new buildings.

At the opening of the renovated School without Walls, named for its distinctive mission to foster learning outside of the classroom through its partnership with GWU, there was a feeling of eager anticipation from the students, families, faculty, and neighbors -- all whom had gathered to view the long awaited transformation. After remarks from Mayor Adrian Fenty and Chancellor of Public Schools, Michelle Rhee, the doors were opened to the public. Oohs, ahs, and the occasional “sweet dude, check this out!” filled the tall glass-clad entryway of the new addition. The exposed exterior brick of the original 1893 building, which now took on the role as an interior wall, served as a perfect threshold between the renovated old school building and the new addition.

The classrooms of the original building provided an ideal space for 21st century learning—the large rooms granted ample space for multipurpose uses, high ceilings and large windows flooded the classrooms with natural light (while saving energy, mind you), and the new finishing of the original hardwood floors and other architectural details created a beautiful, inviting space -- the kind of school Chancellor Rhee affirmed would get children excited about coming to school and the kind of world-class facility that could help them achieve.

I caught up with Principal Architect Sean O'Donnell of the firm EE &K charged with this project. He spoke of both the challenges and the benefits that came with working with an historic school building. He also helped debunk many of the myths that come with the territory such as the belief that older schools can’t meet 21st century educational and technological needs. He believed that School Without Walls “attests to the fact that a 19th century school can foster an innovative pedagogy—new construction wouldn’t have that same opportunity.”

Exploring the renovated classroom space.

Exploring the renovated classroom space.

The goal was to ensure that School Without Walls fit nicely into the fabric of the rest of GWU's campus and that the collaborative partnership between the university and high school did not stop at the programmatic level. O'Donnell feels confidant that the technology available and the spaces created in School Without Walls are ones where any University professor who is accustomed to state-of-the-art facilities can walk into and immediately feel at ease.

As the school aims for its LEED gold certification, many of the original aspects of the old building are scoring automatic points: it’s location on transit, large windows that allow plentiful daylight, reuse of historic fabric, and its shared parking facilities with the University.

Kudos to DCPS, EE & K, and School Without Walls for their innovative design and approach—hopefully, many others may follow your lead.

Kaitlin Dastugue is an intern in the State and Local Policy office 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.