New "Revitalizing Main Street" Book Offers Inspiration — and Ideas

Posted on: July 14th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments

 

Written by Andrea Dono

revitms_coverThe National Trust for Historic Preservation not only developed an approach to revitalization of America’s historic or traditional downtowns, but we wrote the book on it. Literally.

We present to you Revitalizing Main Street: A practitioner’s guide to comprehensive commercial district revitalization. Don’t let the long name scare you. Sure, turning around your downtown takes time – but it can be done. There are a wide scope of issues a commercial district faces when the people who care about it commit to making vibrant again – bringing people back to the streets, attracting new businesses to fill empty storefronts,  and focusing on details ranging from zoning ordinances to heritage tourism programs. We’ve packaged all of these details, explained how our proven Main Street Four-Point Approach® works, mixed in tons of inspiring case studies, and invite you to take the commercial district revitalization bull by its horns and use our new book as a resource. You can buy the new publication from Preservation Books.

And, as a bonus, we have a few online-only chapters and other resources available for free. Check them out!

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.

Change of Plans at the Presidio

Posted on: July 14th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Written by Anthony Veerkamp

main_post

Politics, sex, and religion: those are the three subjects we’ve all been taught not to bring up in polite company. Well, here in San Francisco at least, you can now add CAMP to that list of too-hot-to-touch topics.

For those who aren’t thoroughly indoctrinated in San Francisco civic engagement as contact sport, “CAMP” is the acronym for the 100,000 square foot museum (Contemporary Art Museum at the Presidio) that Donald & Doris Fisher (founders of The Gap retail empire) had proposed for the Main Post at the Presidio of San Francisco to house their collection of contemporary art. I say “had” proposed, because the Fishers recently announced via a prepared statement that they had decided "with disappointment and sadness" to abandon their efforts to build the museum at the Main Post.

First some background. On August 8, 2007, Donald Fisher and the Presidio Trust announced with great fanfare a plan to build a new museum at the Presidio of San Francisco to house the Fishers’ extensive contemporary art collection. What got a lost in the initial buzz over the prospect of a new world-class art museum in San Francisco was the fact that the proposed location was or the most prominent spot at what the Presidio Trust itself has long referred to as the “historic heart of the Presidio.”

It was immediately clear to preservationists and park supporters that this was the wrong place for the museum, especially in light of the fact that the Presidio Trust’s own management plan adopted in 2002 calls for a museum of similar scale to be located on the site of the Presidio’s large, nonhistoric Commissary near Crissy Field.

Alarm over the CAMP proposal boiled over into outright indignation when late in 2007 the Fisher team unveiled its design for the proposed museum. I won’t say it was a bad design, but there was widespread agreement that it was a terrible design for the Main Post—which may be saying the same thing. The proposed museum was massive in scale and aggressively modern in design. The building appeared quite intentionally designed as a billboard for the collection, calling attention to itself and standing out and aloof from its historic and natural surroundings.

Despite the seismic jolt triggered by the design, and even though environmental review as required by the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) as well as Section 106 consultation as required by the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) were just getting underway, the board of the Presidio Trust agreed to proceed with the Fisher’s CAMP proposal.

Easier said than done. The deeper we got into NEPA and Section 106 review, the more evident it became preservationists and the general public that CAMP as well as a number other major new construction projects proposed at the Main Post just couldn’t be reconciled with the Presidio Trust’s congressional mandate to manage the Presidio in a way that “protects the Presidio from development and uses which would destroy the scenic beauty and historic and natural character of the area and cultural and recreational resources.”

And yet the planning process lumbered on, sometimes circling back on itself, generating documents with names like “Supplement to a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statements for the Presidio Trust Management Plan Main Post Update.” (I wish I were making that up.)

Then, on the eve of the July 4th holiday weekend, Mr. Fisher announced out of the blue that he was abandoning the plan to build the museum at the Main Post. I can’t pretend to know all of the factors that went into the Fishers’ decision, nor do I know what their next step will be, but the Fishers’ representative says that options to house the collection at a location elsewhere at the Presidio (say, maybe, the commissary site?), elsewhere in San Francisco, or elsewhere in the country are all still on the table. Meanwhile, the blame game has begun in earnest, and few have been immune to the toxic vitriol spewed in online comments to news stories, the modern equivalent of anonymous scrawls on restroom walls.

In any case, many issues remain to be resolved at the Presidio. Still on the table, for example, is the Main Post Update, of which CAMP was merely the largest and most contentious element. Whether other major elements of that plan such as a proposed new hotel facing the Main Parade and a greatly expanded Presidio Theatre remain viable without the CAMP keystone project-or even make any sense from a park planning perspective--is unclear. What is certain is that after a few cleansing breaths, I and my National Trust colleagues will be back at the table with our preservation partners, advocating for the long term protection of those qualities that make the Presidio one of the most historically significant places in the West.

Anthony Veerkamp is the senior program officer at the National Trust for Historic Preservation Western Office.

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.

Your Vote: New York City's Greenest Buildings

Posted on: July 10th, 2009 by Patrice Frey

 

Check out the Huffington Post's entertaining – but might I add somewhat discouraging  – slideshow of New York's greenest buildings. Note that of the ten buildings, only one existing structure – the Empire State Building -- is offered as an example.  This reinforces what we've understood for awhile now.  There is the widespread perception that to be truly green, a building has to be new.

You can vote for the greenest building in NYC.  Right now the Empire State Building is No. 8… let's go for No. 1.

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.

Hold the Novocain… Baltimore's Professional Arts Building has been Reborn as Apartments

Posted on: July 9th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 3 Comments

 

Written by Erica Stewart

Rep. Elijah Cummings, Mayor Sharon Dixon, John Leith-Tetrault of NTCIC, and others celebrating the ribbon-cutting.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, Mayor Sharon Dixon, John Leith-Tetrault of NTCIC, and others celebrating the ribbon-cutting.

A crowd of 50 supporters, partners and residents gathered recently to help welcome the reinvented Professional Arts Building back to Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood. Once a thriving hub for the dental and medical trades, the eight-story, 1927 building on Reed Street was vacant and poorly maintained for several years. Thanks to the shared vision of Somerset Development and joint venture partner, NAGE Housing, Inc., the historic office building now houses 96 modern, light-filled rental units—all of which are affordable to individuals earning between 80 and 120% of Area Median Income.

In a ceremony officiated by Congressman Elijah Cummings and Mayor Sheila Dixon, the building’s transformation was unveiled. Though the use of the building is a departure from its past, ties to the building’s previous life are visible throughout. The project utilized state and federal historic tax credits, ensuring that its character-defining features would remain. Thus, the ceramic wall tiles that surrounded the dentist chairs remain, original office doors have been retained, and a lobby marquee still shows the names and floor locations of the professionals who last occupied the property.

The exterior of the Professional Arts Building.

The exterior of the Professional Arts Building.

The potential impact of the Professional Arts Building on the neighborhood is exciting. The Mount Vernon neighborhood is a great place to call home—rich in historic commercial buildings, brick rowhouses and shady streets, but its entertainment and shopping options—amenities that city-dwellers have come to expect—are limited. What the neighborhood does have is ideal access to public transportation and proximity to arts institutions. The Professional Arts Building sits just a block and a half from Baltimore’s light rail, subway, train, and bus lines. It is also convenient to the Walters Art Museum, Maryland Institute College of Art, University of Baltimore and Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. It is hoped that the Professional Arts Building, as Mount Vernon’s first high-rise historic multifamily apartment project, will spur the development of additional projects that will attract a critical mass of residents needed to sustain the retail and commercial establishments the neighborhood is currently lacking.

The National Trust Community Investment Corporation (NTCIC) —the for-profit subsidiary of the National Trust—is doing its part to help make that vision a reality. NTCIC partnered with Citibank to make a $4.5 million equity investment in the project to help catalyze the neighborhood’s revitalization. NTCIC is the federal historic tax credit syndicator, a transaction that transfers the federal historic tax credits to Citibank to defray its tax liability in exchange for essential cash resources to the project during its development. NTCIC’s involvement in the Professional Arts Building represents its sixth closed or committed equity investment in Baltimore, totaling $52 million.

Though no longer a medical building where generations of Baltimoreans had their teeth cleaned and their pulse checked, the Professional Arts Building—in its new role as multifamily residential building—is as essential as ever to the health of the neighborhood and City of Baltimore. And best of all? No Novocain needed.

Erica Stewart is the outreach coordinator for the Community Revitalization department 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.

Farnsworth House to be Managed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Posted on: July 9th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Statement from Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

The Farnsworth House, Plano, IL

The Farnsworth House, Plano, IL

On January 1, 2010, the National Trust for Historic Preservation will assume the management of the Farnsworth House, an international icon of Modern architecture located in Plano, Illinois.  While the National Trust has owned the site for the past six years, Landmarks Illinois has managed and operated it.  The National Trust is very proud of the Farnsworth House and the work that both organizations have put into the site, and we are determined to do right by it.  We expect a very smooth transition for the site, including no change in visiting opportunities, as the National Trust and Landmarks Illinois have been terrific partners for many years, well before our collaboration on the Farnsworth House.  Finally, we are delighted that Whitney French will continue as the Site Director by joining our staff and providing us with her experience and knowledge of this unique place.

We look forward to this opportunity because it will strengthen our newly created  Modernism + Recent Past program, which focuses on the significant architecture of the mid-20th century, as well as those places of social, economic, and cultural importance.  Furthermore, it allows even closer collaboration with the Farnsworth House's "sister" property, the Philip Johnson Glass House (another Modernist site owned and operated by the National Trust).  Philip Johnson was inspired in his design of the Glass House by plans Mies van der Rohe developed for the Farnsworth House.

Read the full statement on PreservationNation.org.

Learn 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.