Preservation Rightsizing Network

Legacy Cities + Historic Places

Category: Action Agenda

No, Newark is not the next Brooklyn

By Anne Schaper Englot

In Newark we’re getting tired of hearing hyped-up comparisons to Brooklyn, but that doesn’t seem to stop anyone. In 2015 Politico ran a story headlined “Is Newark the next Brooklyn?” The piece was rebutted by Dr. Roland Anglin, a Brooklyn native with 20+ years of work in Newark who formerly helmed Rutgers University – Newark’s Joseph Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies. Anglin published his response—spoiler alert: Newark is not the next Brooklyn, nor do we aspire to be—in The Conversation. That should have put the issue to rest.

But speculation continued, with the question next being picked up by the New York Times in 2016. That time, it was refuted by Newark’s Deputy Mayor Baye Adofo-Wilson: “Newark’s not trying to be the next Brooklyn, or the next Jersey City… We have our own richness and our own culture here that isn’t just an expansion of Wall Street, but really an expansion of Newark and an expansion of New Jersey.”

Things were quiet for a while, but then the New York Post added to fuel to the fire when it quoted New Jersey Performing Arts Center CEO John Schreiber. Schreiber compared the transformation of Fort Greene around the Brooklyn Academy of Music with downtown Newark’s “culturally conscious” development. Yet he also emphatically countered the article’s premise: “Newark is not Brooklyn…Newark is Newark.”

He echoed the refrain we’ve heard again and again from Newark native, Mayor Ras Baraka. “Newark is the next Newark,” Baraka stated and restated to an appreciative audience gathered to hear the Mayor’s State of the City address in May 2017. And yet, on the cover of Radius, a local glossy published by Newark area developer and booster, Paul Profeta, a headline shouts, “Newark Is the New Brooklyn.”

The Hahne’s Building

Cited in almost all these articles as evidence of Newark’s “Brooklynness” is the renovation of the Hahne & Company Department store. Everyone in Newark has a story about the Hahne’s building if they were here prior to the store’s closing in 1987. Whether they shopped there, worked there, or just passed through to stare at luxury goods beyond their reach, the Hahne’s played a central role in the life of the city. If you were walking down the street with a Hahne’s shopping bag, you were stylin’.

When my family was first contemplating a move to Newark late in 2013, I drove down Broad Street, Newark’s main thoroughfare. Plywood and chain link surrounded the central park downtown. There was a two-block construction site across the street and the Hahne’s building was all boarded up—a white elephant—at the center of town. Nevertheless, we were assured that Newark was undergoing a renaissance. The first piece of evidence was the opening of Military Park—an expert $3 million reimagining by Dan Biederman Associates, the firm responsible for renovation and programing in Bryant Park.

Photo credit: Anne Schaper Englot

The Prudential Tower was next. Its sleek glass-clad façades and green design brought thousands of employees downtown in one fell swoop. Its beautiful new office building was designed by Kohn Pederson Fox and a LEED Gold-accredited, state-of-the-art facility complete with a green wall and green roof. Prudential transferred over 3,000 employees from the suburbs to the building, which looks down on Military Park and mirrors its triumph.

Photo credit: Anne Schaper Englot

The final piece in the set is the Hahne’s building. L+M Development Partners undertook a $174 million redevelopment to transform it into a mixed-use building with retail, commercial, educational, and residential spaces. At its grand opening in January 2017, a record crowd assembled to celebrate the rebirth of a civic treasure. All doubts about Newark’s renaissance—which I learned had been touted in the local and national media periodically since 1987—were put to rest.

Founded in 1901 and designed by Goldwin Starrett (who was soon to be a premiere department store architect), the Hahne & Company store was the gold standard. It had four floors plus a basement of retail around the Grand Court, which was topped by a skylight that sent sun to every level. The store was at the heart of the city.

Photo credit: Anne Schaper Englot

Everyone in the city has a story about Hahne’s. Some stories reflect the institutionalized racial inequality that divided the city in the 1960s. One man told of being an elevator operator who took ladies’ furs to the fur vault after the winter months—yet he was not allowed to set foot on the all-white retail floor. Other memories were more hopeful, such as a professor’s story about winning a drawing contest as a young girl for her drawing of her mom, which was displayed in the store window on Mother’s Day.

When the store was closed in the late 1980s, it was a hole in the heart of Newark. When it became clear that the Hahne’s building would reopen, the city shed a 30-year chip from its shoulder.

Hahne’s Building: A Case Study in Partnerships

L+M are continuing to work to fill all the commercial spaces, but it is only a matter of time. PetCo, CityMD, a Marcus Samuelson restaurant, and a shared-work-hub are all committed future tenants. L+M started the project under former mayor (now U.S. Senator) Cory Booker, who is still a frequent visitor to the building. Booker helped secure the first anchor tenant, Whole Foods, by contacting the company constantly until it finally agreed Newark was “ready” for a store.

Photo credit: Anne Schaper Englot

Rutgers University – Newark was the second anchor tenant to sign on. An amazing synchronicity occurred with the arrival of new RU-N chancellor Nancy Cantor. Cantor is a national expert in creating anchor partnerships between universities and cities, and she saw an opportunity to invest in a linchpin project with other Newark anchors such as Prudential and Goldman Sachs. A RU-N faculty proposal to relocate their engaged scholarship and social art practice to a space in the downtown was quickly approved.

I became involved in the development of this space in the roughly 500,000 square foot Hahne’s building because of my background in architecture, initially serving as a liaison between KSS architects and the faculty, and now serving as the co-director with Newark artist and long-time gallerist, Victor Davson. It is a 50,000 square foot, $25 million project we call Express Newark, as in “Express your amazing soul, Newark.” Express Newark is a university-community collaboratory where printmakers, video artists, a sculptor who has mastered 3-D imaging and printing, graphic designers, painters, photographers, and writers—many of them multimedia artists—work together on myriad projects.

Photo credit: Anthony Alvarez

All told, there are 28 local artists who are recognized community partners, 18 faculty members, and over 1,000 Rutgers students actively engaged in Express Newark. Roughly 150 Newark High School students take college prep and art workshops several Saturdays a month as part of a Kresge-funded program. At first, we worried about not marketing enough to the public, but now we’re trying to stem the tide of organizations and individuals who want to hold conferences, lectures, events, and more in the Express Newark space.

Photo credit: Halkin Mason Photography, courtesy of KSS Architects

Renaissance? Sure, but it’s Newark’s

L+M made so many decisions about the Hahne’s project that were about maintaining the integrity of the architecture and not about the bottom line. The best example is the Grand Court skylight, which had been painted and tarred over during WWII to prevent it from becoming a target for enemy planes. L+M painstakingly disassembled the skylight, sent it to Pennsylvania for sandblasting and restoration, and lovingly reinstalled it over the second story to recreate a modern version of the original Grand Court. The third and fourth floors of the court became a residential court with apartment windows and patios overlooking the skylight. I am such a believer that my husband and I were the first residential tenants: on February 1, we moved into an apartment that overlooks Military Park.

Photo credit: Anne Schaper Englot

Recently, we sat outside with some neighbors at Burg, a burger joint and beer garden in Military Park. The outdoor bar was packed with millennials, there were people jogging and walking dogs, a group was waiting to go on a tour of the city, and others had gathered to paint watercolors and play ping pong. It was a vibrant Newark scene—our own kind of renaissance.

Anne Schaper Englot is a Professor of Practice in Architecture & Humanities in Rutgers University-Newark’s Arts, Culture & Media Department and is the Co-Director of Express Newark: a University – Community Arts Collaboratory.

 

About this series

This is the first post in a series that will dig into preservation and the arts in legacy cities. The arts have the potential to underpin many of the strategies in the Action Agenda, especially thoughtful, creative community engagement.

Action item 2: Engage and listen to local communities

Preservationists must listen to local needs and priorities and develop new forms of community engagement informed by diverse communities and youth. Creative visualization of preservation’s potential—pop-up shops in vacant storefronts, art installations in empty houses, and collective daydreaming like artist Candy Chang’s “I wish this were” walls—can share important community stories, underscore the importance of place and community, and spur real action to revitalize both vernacular and high-style neighborhoods.

Legacy city preservation practice must hold local heritage and quality of life as significant as architecture. Intangible heritage and culture—the stories that make a community what it is—should be recognized and preserved through oral histories, community storytelling events, and in other ways. is is especially important when demolition is necessary and in neighborhoods that have been shaped by long-term disinvestment and systemic racism.

Arches: An Open Source Platform for Cultural Resource Inventories

By David Myers

The critical first step in protecting significant cultural resources is having baseline information on what and where they are, as well as their current status and potential uses. This information is essential for those involved in managing or trying to affect change in legacy cities and for urban revitalization. City and regional agencies play a crucial role in collecting and making available such baseline information through their cultural resource inventories (which are often added to and updated through historic resource surveys).

Inventories are a critical tool for making proactive, timely, and informed decisions, especially when high demolition and/or redevelopment pressures exist. They are most effective when city and regional agencies are able to harness modern information technologies that 1) offer widespread and easy access to key information and 2) allow records to be easily updated to reflect changing conditions. However, developing and maintaining effective digital inventory systems and sustaining related data is a costly and difficult undertaking that can be beyond the reach of many organizations and agencies.

In an environment of diminishing resources for heritage organizations and municipal governments, the Getty Conservation Institute and World Monuments Fund created the Arches Heritage Inventory and Management System, a modern enterprise-level open source software platform designed for use by heritage institutions around the world. Arches—web-based and geospatially enabled—is purpose-built for managing inventories of all types of heritage places, including buildings, structures, historic districts, archaeological sites, and cultural landscapes. As an open source platform, Arches is available at no cost and is customizable to meet organizations’ particular needs. Organizations may choose to provide unrestricted access to their Arches implementation and data or limit access. Arches is designed to be as intuitive as possible to allow authorized users to enter, edit, and search data with little technical training.

Arches is already being used by a wide range of heritage organizations internationally. Organizations that have deployed Arches in the U.S. include:

  • City of Los Angeles: The City of Los Angeles has implemented Arches as HistoricPlacesLA (http://historicplacesla.org), the official Los Angeles Historic Resources Inventory, as a tool to fulfill its obligations under federal, state, and local historic preservation laws; to provide input to its planning processes; and to make information publicly accessible.

Screenshot of HistoricPlacesLA showing clusters representing over 25,000 cultural resources identified to date by the City of Los Angeles. Credit: City of Los Angeles.

 

  • Queen Anne’s County, Maryland: Queen Anne’s County is implementing Arches to present and help preserve more than 300 years of its history of individuals, properties, and events that are significant to the nation, Maryland, and Queen Anne’s County. This Arches deployment is slated to go public later in 2017.
  • Cane River National Heritage Area: The Cane River National Heritage Area in Louisiana has implemented Arches as the Cane River Heritage Inventory and Map (http://crhim.canerivernha.org) to manage information on cultural resources and to promote public knowledge, appreciation, and interest in them.

Screenshot of the Cane River Heritage Inventory and Map including integration of historic basemap. Credit: Cane River National Heritage Area.

  • Armed Forces Retirement Home: The Armed Forces Retirement Home, a 272-acre historic residential campus in Washington, DC, established in 1851 for military veterans and managed by a federal agency, is using Arches (http://www.afrh-iris.com/) as a tool to inventory and manage its important cultural resources.

Other organizations around the world have implemented Arches, including as national inventories in Asia and the Caribbean. Implementations are now being prepared in the U.S. by the City and County of San Francisco and in the UK by Historic England for Greater London and by the City of Lincoln.

The Arches project is now finalizing development of version 4.0 of the platform, which includes numerous enhancements, such as tools for customization and configuration. Development is also now starting on an Arches online/offline mobile data collection app, which is planned for completion by the end of 2017.

To learn more, visit the Arches project website at http://archesproject.org/.

Using the location filter in Arches, resources that would be impacted by a proposed development project can be quickly identified. Credit: City of Los Angeles.

The Related Resources graph reveals relationships between Arches resources, in this instance between an architect and heritage resources as well as other persons related to those heritage resources (such as owners and occupants). Credit: Arches Project.

David Myers is Senior Project Specialist at the Getty Conservation Institute.

 

About this series

This is the final post in a series that has explored how others are using data to support, improve, and create good preservation practices. The Action Agenda prioritizes data collection and analysis to support key efforts of legacy city preservation:

Action Item 3: Use data to support and improve good practices.

Preservationists need data that goes beyond the facts of buildings, styles, and architects. Good data and layered multidisciplinary analysis can inform strategic decision-making on the ground, prioritize limited funds, support coalition-building with organizations in allied fields, direct preservationists in refining practices and tools in challenging legacy city contexts, and shape effective advocacy efforts. In particular, rigorous analysis should examine how reinvesting in older and historic buildings and neighborhoods compares to demolition with regard to social, economic, and environmental outcomes such as community stability, foreclosures, and property values.

GIS at the National Trust

By Reina Chano Murray

Historic preservation deals intrinsically with place: each of the historic resources we love can be marked to a location on our planet. As preservationists, we’re often concerned with 1) knowing exactly where these resources exist, and 2) not only preserving but understanding how they interact with or may be affected by their surroundings. This makes geographic information systems (GIS) a great resource for our field, since it allows us to create, manage, visualize, and analyze spatial data.

The National Trust’s foray into GIS began when its research division, the Preservation Green Lab (PGL), began working to make the case that older buildings contribute in significant, quantifiable ways to our lives. That successful effort resulted in the 2014 publication Older, Smaller, Better, which used big data and spatial analytics to find statistically significant links between blocks of older, smaller, mixed-age buildings, and various economic, social and demographic indicators. Since the 2014 study, the National Trust has worked to enhance the scope of its GIS work.

As the National Trust’s GIS project manager, my job is to provide GIS-related technical assistance to projects and demonstrate the applicability of GIS to historic preservation. We are also working to provide more GIS-related resources to the wider preservation community while creating best practices for working with GIS data in preservation.

A few examples of how we’ve used GIS recently to inform the preservation work of the National Trust and our partners:

Viewshed Renderings for Charleston, SC Harbor

A new terminal is being considered in Charleston, SC, which has the potential to significantly increase both the number and the size of cruise ships coming through Charleston’s harbor. I was asked to find a way to visually communicate the potential impact larger cruise ships would have on the historically significant viewsheds of Charleston’s historic district.

We used a combination of open source and proprietary GIS software (including SketchUp, Google Earth Pro, LASTools, and ArcGIS Desktop) to create a video that takes the viewer around to various vantage points in Charleston. In the video, superimposed 3D models of possible cruise ships in the harbor are shown, allowing us to visually demonstrate how these larger ships overshadow the height of the carefully preserved buildings in Charleston’s historic district. This video and the documentation it provided has resulted in the Army Corps of Engineers significantly increasing the area of potential effect (APE) of the new terminal, which affords us more opportunities to make sure the new terminal is developed responsibly in a way that limits its impact to this national historic landmark district.

<div style=”position:relative;height:0;padding-bottom:56.25%”><iframe src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/0lDNerZFTQY?ecver=2″ width=”640″ height=”360″ frameborder=”0″ style=”position:absolute;width:100%;height:100%;left:0″ allowfullscreen></iframe></div>

 

Atlas of Reurbanism

The Atlas of Reurbanism is PGL’s follow-up to Older, Smaller, Better. We’ve expanded on our initial analysis to offer baseline building and block information for 50 major cities across the country. We needed to create a methodology that would help us crunch a significant amount of data on this many cities in a timely fashion, and to create an interactive way for users to explore these datasets on their own.

Here too, we used a combination of open-source and proprietary GIS software such as PostgreSQL, PostGIS, ArcGIS for Server, and ArcGIS Online. In addition to a summary report released in November 2016, we are releasing city-specific fact sheets and web applications on a rolling basis.

 

In Progress

We have and will continue to add more examples of GIS-related work to our ArcGIS Online Organizational account, which you can check out at nthp.maps.arcgis.com.

Other things in the works include:

  • A partnership with University of Minnesota Media Lab and Esri (a leading GIS software provider) to put together a training platform called Earth Xplorers that teaches secondary school students about geography, GIS, and historic preservation.
  • Updated historic tax credit project maps for each state, congressional district, and certain cities to help advocates educate and lobby their representatives. These will  be completed in June.
  • Educational content in the form of webinars and blog posts to help historic preservationists to learn how to use GIS to not only analyze information and make informed decisions, but to also communicate widely about their work. The National Trust recently hosted our first GIS workshop on ArcGIS Online in February, and we are planning to release additional content over the coming months.
  • A tech track at our PastForward conference in November! Sign up for conference updates from the National Trust to get more details on this.

Reina Chano Murray is GIS project manager at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

 

About this series

Follow along this month as we learn how others are using data to support, improve, and create good preservation practices. The Action Agenda prioritizes data collection and analysis to support key efforts of legacy city preservation:

Action Item 3: Use data to support and improve good practices.

Preservationists need data that goes beyond the facts of buildings, styles, and architects. Good data and layered multidisciplinary analysis can inform strategic decision-making on the ground, prioritize limited funds, support coalition-building with organizations in allied fields, direct preservationists in refining practices and tools in challenging legacy city contexts, and shape effective advocacy efforts. In particular, rigorous analysis should examine how reinvesting in older and historic buildings and neighborhoods compares to demolition with regard to social, economic, and environmental outcomes such as community stability, foreclosures, and property values.

The Democratization of GIS Technology

By Dan Watts

Geographic information systems (GIS) are an invaluable part of the practice of historic preservation. By harnessing the power of geospatial data, preservationists, planners, and community members can more effectively manage change, protect historic resources, and engage the public in efforts to create better communities.

GIS has long been a part of preservation planning and has been used extensively on everything from building surveys and inventories to the cataloging of architectural styles or building materials. But because of cost, use was traditionally limited to governments or organizations with budgets large enough to purchase the necessary licenses and hardware. As a result, the full analytical power of GIS was often experienced only by a small group of experts, while the public saw static end results such as printed maps.

However, the last several years have produced a wealth of easily available open-source and technically robust GIS platforms that have transformed the ways in which the public experiences and interacts with GIS technology. If I had to pick one word to describe the transformation, it would be accessibility. This revolution in accessibility is probably best embodied in the potential of web GIS. Simply defined, web GIS is a combination of internet and GIS technology made widely accessible through a web browser interface.

Web GIS has vastly democratized access to GIS’s analytical power from virtually anywhere and with little or no cost to end users through web mapping applications. These applications often have the capability to make available many of the same analytical tools as desktop GIS, enabling users to examine data in new ways.

In 2016, the Washington DC Office of Planning released an interactive web application, HistoryQuest DC, which provides information on more than 120,000 buildings within the District of Columbia. The information is presented in an easily understood format and the application also contains analytical tools that enable users to query or sort the data behind scenes. Consider the alternative of sifting through a 120,000+ record database!

HistoryQuest DC, courtesy of the Washington DC Office of Planning

At the same time, web mapping applications are also challenging the traditional ways in which data is displayed and interacted with. In early 2017, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission launched a 3D web mapping application as part of a public outreach effort following the designation of a new historic district in upper Manhattan. The application allows users to freely navigate the 3D environment of the Morningside Heights neighborhood and in doing so gain a more complete and nuanced understanding of the buildings that make up the historic district and the context in which it’s located.

Morningside Heights Historic District Explorer, courtesy of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission

I believe that, in many ways, we’re seeing the future of GIS unfolding in front of us. The democratization of geospatial technology almost certainly means that the future of GIS in preservation planning will be one of greater access to information as well as increasing access to tools, especially those that are open-source. This will enable an ever-larger group of people to work with data in the geospatial environment. The case studies referenced above are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of how GIS accessibility will affect preservation planning and I look forward to innovations to come.

Dan Watts is a preservationist and data aficionado and works as a GIS Administrator at the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.

About this series

Follow along this month as we learn how others are using data to support, improve, and create good preservation practices. The Action Agenda prioritizes data collection and analysis to support key efforts of legacy city preservation:

Action Item 3: Use data to support and improve good practices.

Preservationists need data that goes beyond the facts of buildings, styles, and architects. Good data and layered multidisciplinary analysis can inform strategic decision-making on the ground, prioritize limited funds, support coalition-building with organizations in allied fields, direct preservationists in refining practices and tools in challenging legacy city contexts, and shape effective advocacy efforts. In particular, rigorous analysis should examine how reinvesting in older and historic buildings and neighborhoods compares to demolition with regard to social, economic, and environmental outcomes such as community stability, foreclosures, and property values.

Recap: PRN in 2016

Recap: PRN in 2016

We’re pleased to present this quick recap of PRN’s activities last year. We’ve been busy! Many of you know this firsthand, from participating in our pilot project workshop in Detroit last fall, showing up to a PRN session at one of six national and statewide conferences, or attending the second national legacy city preservation conference in Detroit, which we supported.

Yet looking forward, we know that much remains to be done. PRN is committed to standing against hatred in all of its many forms, including xenophobia, racism, misogyny, and bigotry. We look forward to working with partner organizations and individuals to help revitalize legacy city neighborhoods to be more livable, equitable, and just. We will publish more soon on our stance on current events and developing federal policies.

In 2016, we began a campaign to seek funding to support paid staff. This remains one of our strongest ongoing efforts. We see becoming a staffed organization as a critical step for continuing our current momentum and activities in a way that’s sustainable, and we will continue to actively explore potential funding sources in 2017.

Year in review

January: At the start of 2016, we rested on our laurels – with an emphasis on rest – after our successful Action Agenda launch event in Newark, NJ, which drew more than 200 people to tour the Hahne & Co. Building and hear about the Action Agenda. Nearly 30 organizations participated in the launch as sponsors and supporters – a terrific beginning for the Action Agenda, which was developed through intensive collaboration and requires a highly collaborative approach to succeed.

FebruaryWe released the Legacy City Preservation video, in which national experts and local leaders talk about legacy city preservation and the Action Agenda. Haven’t watched it yet? Now’s your chance!

Later that month, Leadership Team members Emilie Evans, Nick Hamilton, and Cara Bertron, along with colleagues Aaron Bartley (with PUSH Buffalo) and Prashant Singh (then with LocalData), led a half-day workshop at the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference. Participants collected data in downtown Portland, OR, then discussed how to use similar data to inform community-based revitalization.

April: Emilie Evans, PRN volunteer Maggie Smith (also with Page & Turnbull), and Cara Bertron spoke at the California Preservation Forum on addressing vacant and abandoned buildings.

Later that month, Cara Bertron spoke about PRN and legacy city preservation at the RevitalizeWA conference in Chelan, WA.

May: PRN co-organized a Livable Cities Research Forum with the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, DC. The forum convened 25 policy and thought leaders from across the country to discuss research priorities around the role of older buildings in shaping successful cities. This effort relates to the Action Agenda’s third action item: Use data to support and improve good practices.

The same month, the Action Agenda was featured in a national webinar in partnership with the National Trust’s Preservation Leadership Forum.

June: Nick Hamilton and Cristina Garmendia (then with Isles, Inc.) spoke about implementing the Action Agenda at the New Jersey History & Historic Preservation Conference.

September: We played a substantial role in supporting the Neighborhoods in America’s Legacy Cities Conference in Detroit, which brought together 250 people to share ideas and discuss pressing issues.

The same week, we kicked off our first Action Agenda pilot project with the Live6 Alliance. The pilot, Putting Stories to Work, looks at how community stories can catalyze equitable neighborhood reinvestment and speaks to the Action Agenda’s second action item: Engage and listen to local communities. Our first major activity was a workshop that brought together Detroiters – including a large cohort of Northwest Detroit residents – and national experts to tour the Live6 neighborhood and talk about how to collect and use local stories for real community impacts.

November: We presented a power session on the Action Agenda at the PastForward conference in Houston.

The same month, the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation released its Policy Statement on Historic Preservation and Community Revitalization. PRN served as part of an informal working group on the policy statement throughout the year.

*

In the past year, Melissa Jest stepped down from our Leadership Team and Anne Englot came on board. We are grateful to Melissa for her wisdom and commitment to legacy cities and community-building. We are also excited to have Anne on our team! A professor at Rutgers University-Newark, Anne brings deep experience in university-community initiatives, including the just-opened Express Newark arts incubator. Meet all our Leadership Team members here.

Cara Bertron is the Director of the Preservation Rightsizing Network.

Dispatch from Seattle

By Julianne Patterson

The Bobs Quality MeatsAction Agenda is a new approach to preservation in ALL cities. Although I live Seattle, currently one of the fastest growing cities, the Action Agenda articulates what many preservationists already believe but have a hard time reconciling with: historic preservation is more than old buildings and architectural history. Recognizing preservation is just a piece of something bigger is critical for success.

When I first read through the Action Agenda I found myself literally giddy with excitement over the call for strategic demolitions (gasp!), more data, more cross-disciplinary collaboration, and more creative funding solutions – in just 30 pages. These ideas need to reach a larger audience and start planting seeds so I was thrilled that PRN Chair Cara Bertron was able to present at the Washington State Preservation and Main Street Conference this April.

Application to Main Street Washington: Although Washington does not have legacy cities in the traditional sense, we have 32 Main Street Communities that struggle with many of the same challenges on a smaller scale. So many rural communities in our state were once settled and dependent on a single industry (agriculture, mining, etc) that either no longer exists, or exists in a drastically different way. These small towns want to protect their unique heritage after populations have dwindled but often don’t have the resources to encourage investment. The Action Agenda can provide insight on how to change traditional approaches to preservation in these towns.

Application to rapidly growing cities like Seattle: Each community hasKing St Station_12 unique challenges, and a booming city like Seattle is no different. How do you best promote and honor a local landmark ordinance in a city where the land is often more valuable without the existing building? Too often buildings are deemed significant in self-defense, motivated by the fear of rapid, uncontrolled growth. How do preservationists engage stakeholders in the larger conversation before the eleventh hour to reach an authentic solution? Multidisciplinary collaboration will be key to the future success of cities and preservationists need a seat at the table.

The Action Agenda doesn’t have all the answers to these questions. Instead, it encourages everyone that identifies as a preservationist to question what that really means and what their role is in the bigger picture, and at the local level.

Julianne Patterson is the Development and Events Coordinator at the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.

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