Faces in Preservation: Meet Adaptive Reuse Pro John Greer

Posted on: December 18th, 2008 by Jason Clement 1 Comment

 

Meet John Greer and learn about his reuse project that defied the odds in our new Faces in Preservation series.

Sometimes the biggest challenge in reusing a historic building is not adapting its irreplaceable features, but convincing those who will ultimately use the building that you're not crazy.

In addition to dealing with ductwork and tricky floor-to-floor heights, Little Rock-based architect John Greer also had to contend with a steady chorus of dissent from those who thought a K-12 charter school in an abandoned downtown newspaper plant simply couldn't be done.

In anticipation of his recent Faces in Preservation profile, we had a chance to chat with the reuse pro himself about his unique project and some of the challenges he encountered along the way.

PreservationNation: Why do you think the idea of a downtown K-12 school was so hard for people to get their heads around? What were some of the initial criticisms of the project? 

In general, people don’t know how to handle change. The adjacent hotel was concerned about noise from the playground early in the morning when their patrons would be trying to sleep. The neighboring office buildings were happy with the quiet city street with the vacant building next door. They had plenty of parking at any given time of the day. They didn’t have to worry about traffic getting in and out of their buildings. There was no noise from screaming kids, bouncing balls on the playground, teachers with whistles...the list goes on. The reality of it is that, with the help of the city traffic engineers and the willingness of city leaders to embrace change, traffic flows quite well. Now, the first week was somewhat difficult, but once people got in a groove and got their pick-up and drop-off times coordinated, it worked quite well. And the hotel worked out an agreement with school administrators that the first recess would be delayed until after 9:30 a.m.

PreservationNation: Why was the Arkansas Gazette Building a perfect fit for the eStem Charter School?

The floor plan lent itself to a very open arrangement of classrooms along the perimeter encircling a central lightwell. There are so many exterior windows that we were able to provide abundant natural light in all but just a few classrooms. The introduction of natural light into these rooms has created an environment that is very conducive to the students. The charter school is the first school in our area to adopt an eight-hour school day. To subject a student to eight hours of intense learning without natural light is not an environment that is conducive to learning. Location is also key. It is within a three-block walk to the main public library. It is four blocks from a performing arts theater. And best of all, it is centrally located in the business district to allow working parents to drop off and pick up in close proximity to their work.

... 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.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.

Save Mid-City: "How Would You Feel?" – Resident Diana Monley

Posted on: December 17th, 2008 by Sarah Heffern

 

Diana Monely has worked for the city of New Orleans for 30 years and lived in her Mid-City home for 35, and now -- despite weathering Hurricane Katrina in the city to remain on the job -- her loyalty to New Orleans is being repaid with the loss of her home. She says, “You just put yourself in my place. How would you feel?”

I, for one, would feel terrible, especially knowing that there are so many unanswered questions and unconsidered alternatives when it comes to locating a new VA/LSU medical complex in Mid-City. Join us in telling Governor Bobby Jindal and other decisionmakers how you feel about this. Take action today!

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

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.

WE Gets It

Posted on: December 17th, 2008 by Patrice Frey 2 Comments

 

"Most people see an old building. I see my next job. If we made these old places use less energy, we could save money and boost the economy." -- wecansolveit.org ad

Think creating "green jobs" means building solar panels and wind mills? Or new green buildings? Sure -- but that's not all. Check out this ad from WE (Al Gore's organization), which talks about how greening older buildings creates jobs and saves the environment. We at the National Trust for Historic Preservation couldn't have said it any better.

Consider these facts about why rehabbing (and greening!) historic buildings is a better job generator than new construction:

Rehabilitation generally uses about 20 percent more labor and, in turn, produces a greater number of jobs than new construction. As compared to new construction, every $1 million spent to rehabilitate a building results in:

  • Five to nine more construction jobs created;
  • An average of 4.7 more new permanent jobs created.

Furthermore, with preservation-based activities household incomes in the community increase by $107 more than through new construction. Retail sales in the community increasing by $142,000 – $34,000 more than through new construction.

And rehabbing our older and historic buildings to be more energy efficient offers two major environmental benefits. First, it directly reduces the energy needed to operate our buildings. Second, when we retrofit our existing buildings rather that constructing anew, we avoid the negative environmental impacts associated with new construction -- e.g. all that carbon that we send up into the atmosphere when we extract resources from the earth's surface and turn them into building materials.

Learn more about our sustainability initiative.

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.

Faces in Preservation

Posted on: December 16th, 2008 by Jason Clement

 

On Friday, we introduced you to Dubuque, Iowa Mayor Roy D. Boul, one of the first people profiled in our new Faces in Preservation series. We've created this series as a supplement to the policy platform we've created for President-Elect Barack Obama, to showcase preservationists who are amazing examples of the kind of work we're hoping to see more of in the future. It's not just change we can believe in -- it's change that we can actually see.

For the first week of the series, our focus is on sustainability. In addition to Mayor Boul, we have profiled two other preservationists whose adaptive use projects have won recognition for merging preservation principles with green building.

John Greer
Schools build a community's character and bring daily life and activity to its streets. So then, why are so many of them being built on the outskirts of town? For John Greer, that wasn't an option when he decided to turn a historic newspaper plant into a K-12 charter school in Downtown Little Rock, proving that incentives that encourage adaptive reuse are not only good for the environment, but good for our neighborhoods.   >> Read More

Jonathan F. P. Rose
Repair the fabric of existing communities while preserving the open space around them. That is Jonathan F. P. Rose's vision and the marching order of his New York-based green real estate development company, whose recent rehabilitation of Seattle's Joseph Vance Building is a example of what could become a national standard with the right federal policies and incentives. >> Read More

Learn more about our preservation platform for the new administration.

Sarah Heffern, blog editor, contributed to this story.

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.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.

 

A year and a half after receiving preservation grants from the state of Louisiana, Bobbi Rogers is faced with having her home demolished... by the state of Louisiana. This unusual turn of events is due to a proposed VA/LSU hospital complex will cost lower Mid-City residents the homes they have been restoring since Hurricane Katrina. Bobbi, a volunteer who helped rebuild homes in what is now the neighborhood where she lives, is left scratching her head at this turn of events, "A year and a half ago the state gave us $45,000 in preservation grants to restore our home. But today they want to demolish it. It doesn’t make any sense to me."

We don't get it either, and -- along with Louisiana residents and concerned citizens nationwide, we're asking the decision-makers to reconsider and save Mid-City. Please join us in taking action now!

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

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.