By Julianne Patterson
The Action 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 has 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.