Preservation Rightsizing Network

Legacy Cities + Historic Places

Category: Events

Recap: Preservation Advocacy Week 2017

Missed Preservation Advocacy Week this year? Catch up with this recap from Julianne Patterson, Development & Events Coordinator at the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation and a member of PRN’s Communications Committee. As she writes, our work is far from done.

You can get more background on Preservation Advocacy Week from Preservation Action and our March 13 blog post.

By Julianne Patterson

The official “week” of storming Capitol Hill to advocate for historic preservation-
related policies has ended for this year, but I think we all know that advocacy is a 365-days-a-year endeavor. Our priorities for Advocacy Week 2017 and moving forward are: (1) asking for adequate funding of the core programs of the Historic Preservation Fund; (2) asking for support of the Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credit; (3) and asking representatives to join the Historic Preservation Caucus. All remain relevant and urgent.

Historic Preservation Fund

Thanks to the NPS Centennial Act passed last December – which reauthorized the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) – we were able to get right to the appropriations request of $86M for FY18. We visited members of Congress on Capitol Hill the day before the president’s budget was released, so we ran into a lot of “…Let’s just see what things look like after tomorrow” responses. It was helpful to remind representatives that funding for the HPF comes from offshore oil leases, and that the request really isn’t that big in the grand scheme of things.

The $86M request includes $50M to State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPOs), $13M to Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (THPOs), $13M for Civil Rights Initiative Competitive Grants, $5M for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and $5M for new grants to fund GIS and data management systems to document historic resources.

The request for funding to support new data management systems is a noteworthy step toward improving surveying efficiency and information accessibility. This small request is something my group (advocating for the state of Washington) highlighted. Increasing digital resources would greatly improve the Section 106 planning and review process, ultimately lightening the load on already overly busy SHPOs. It’s an exciting opportunity: government agencies, private firms, and nonprofit organizations are developing new tools every day to advance the preservation and planning fields. (PRN has upcoming blog posts featuring a few of these digital innovations, so stay tuned!)  

We discussed the administration’s infrastructure priorities and pointed out that dramatically increasing the number of public infrastructure projects without increasing the funding for SHPO staff would create a major burden within those offices – and potentially slow down critical repairs to roads, bridges, and more. HPF funding that will allow our SHPOs to proactively plan and prepare for this big wave of projects by utilizing digital resources to streamline and speed up the review process. This point hit home and resonated with every office we met with.

(Photo from

Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credit

Advocating for the Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credit (also called the Historic Tax Credit, or HTC) was met with more “let’s just see how things go” comments. It was clear there is a lot of uncertainty around what tax reform will look like, if it happens at all. Preservation Action did a great job prepping everyone the day before our Hill meetings by outlining a strategy that acknowledges the HTC will likely go away in the first draft; early blueprints of tax reform show it eliminated. Thus, our focus was requesting support for the credit once the tax code is opened up for discussion, with emphasis on its economic development and community revitalization impacts.

We also requested that representatives support the HTC Improvement Act (S. 425, H.R 1158), which increases the credit to 30% for projects under $3.75M, thereby making the benefits more accessible to smaller communities where the economic and revitalization impacts are needed most. We made sure to mention projects in each district (or the potential projects that could happen if the Improvement Act becomes law).

In addition to using examples of successful completed projects to illustrate the impact of the HTC program, our Washington delegation brought two current projects from Seattle that are in limbo because their financing is dependent on combining the Low Income Housing Tax Credits with the HTC to pencil out. In a city with seemingly limitless development potential in the midst of a housing crisis, investors and syndication funds are reluctant to take a chance on a tax credit project without assurance that the payout will be there. This is the very real reality of the state of uncertainty surrounding the HTC program and tax reform in general.

Historic Preservation Caucus

Finally, we always ask our representatives to join the Historic Preservation Caucus to stay involved in relevant policy issues as they relate to preservation. I don’t know much about the day-to-day business of the HP Caucus, but I imagine it as a big fun party where everyone dresses up as their favorite president and aggressively fights to have the most National Monuments in their district. I know it’s only like that in my dreams, but the good news is that preservation has advocates on both sides of the aisle – sometimes it just takes a different approach to highlight the priorities each person and party aligns with.

Resources for Action Now

As you can see, much is happening, with more work to be done (always!). Advocacy truly is an everyday, all-year project.

Here are three things you can do to follow up with the priority issues from Preservation Advocacy Week:

  1. Call your members of Congress (MOCs) in support of the HPF FY18 appropriation.
  2. Ask your MOCs to cosponsor the HTC Improvement Act (again, that’s S. 425, H.R 1158)
  3. Request that your MOCs join the HP Caucus, if they haven’t already.


Preservation Advocacy Week 2017: Get Involved

Welcome to Preservation Advocacy Week 2017! Even if you’re not reading this from Washington, DC, you can still make an impact. Here’s how:

  1. Pick up the phone. Call your Members of Congress to express your support for Historic Tax Credits and the Historic Tax Credit Improvement Act (HTCIA). If your Member is already cosponsoring the HTCIA, make sure to thank them; if not, ask if they will sign on as a cosponsor. Find your Representative here and your Senator here.

  2. Reach out. Use social media and local media to highlight HTC projects in your community and talk about their impacts on jobs, private investment, and neighborhood revitalization. The Novogradac Historic Tax Credit Mapping Tool is a terrific resource: it lists HTC projects by state and congressional district from 2001 to 2015.

  3. Talk to colleagues. Many people have a stake in the Historic Tax Credit: developers at all scales, affordable housing providers, community development organizations, and people who live or work in HTC-rehabbed buildings. Ask them to advocate for the HTC and HTC Improvement Act to counter the perception that it’s only wealthy developers who benefit.

  4. Show up. If your Member of Congress will be in your district April 10-21, see if you can schedule a meeting with him or her – and set up a visit to a HTC project, if possible!

A set of one-page briefs from Preservation Action can provide background to help with advocacy. PRN was pleased to partner with the Center for Community Progress and the Legacy Cities Partnership to produce three educational briefs for representatives from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. If you live in one of those states, please download and use the brief when speaking with your legislator!

The National Trust held a webinar last Thursday, March 9, which is archived here (free access, requires sign-in). Speakers discussed ways to effectively reach representatives, including some inspiring case studies, and offered an update on current legislation.

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.

Legacy City Preservation

The Legacy City Preservation event celebrated the release of the Action Agenda for Historic Preservation in Legacy Cities. It took place on December 8, 2015, in Newark.

Read more about the event! 

Preservation as Change of Mind

By Margo Warminski

I grew up in 48205. (Google it.) I lived in a place where the American dream went into reverse, and kept going backward. Eventually I moved to a calmer zip code but kept the Rust Belt DNA. Which is why I couldn’t wait to spend three days at the Historic Preservation in America’s Legacy Cities conference in Cleveland.

And I wasn’t disappointed. Throw so many bright, engaged, outspoken urbanists in a (big) room and you can’t help but be inspired, and challenged by tough truths. (Looking for happy talk? Keep looking.) Like:

  • For years, much of preservation was oriented toward controlling growth: a manifest destiny of new restoration districts, better ordinances and more wood windows. But what happens when the wheels come off and, in some neighborhoods, you can’t even give houses away? Preservationists, not just in rusty cities, need a change of mind: learning to live within limits. As we heard over and over, the overriding goals should be to keep buildings standing, and keep people in them—even if we have to compromise on guidelines and expectations.
  • You can’t demolish away the problem of vacated neighborhoods. (A ringing truth.) For years, cities have been whacking away at buildings in a kind of slow-motion urban renewal, yet vacancy continues to spread. As Allan Mallach ably stated, low demand, not vacancy, is the issue.
  • You can’t separate race, class, poverty, crime, unemployment, and extreme isolation.
  • You can’t save everything. We know this better than anyone.
  • And: Time, resources, political will—never enough.

IMG_0343Most exciting was the four-hour closing workshop where we hammered together an action agenda, more or less in harmony. Our rough-draft wish-list included more funding (saved, expanded tax credit; new products for low-value properties); more balance (money for stabilization, not just demolition); and more, better data.

And we left with work orders:

  • Pitch the plans. Take meaningful, incremental steps.
  • Go top-down, bottom-up. Cities need both DIY urbanism and activist government.
  • Reach across the room. Realize that first priorities of people in hard-hit neighborhoods probably aren’t restoring Italianate cornices. You can’t impose on people with different priorities.
  • Find common threads in tangled history. Newer residents of old neighborhoods may not cherish them for the original residents, but they may share values and aspirations with the founders.

Now, back to 48205. As a kid, I wanted to live on a street in a nearby neighborhood called Robinwood East. Just a bungalow block, but the name sounded glamorous. (Google-map it to see what’s left of it today.) For Robinwood East and Delhi Avenue and Flint and Youngstown and struggling historic places in lonely corners of America, that’s why this matters. Let’s go.

Margo Warminski is the Preservation Director at the Cincinnati Preservation Association. Images accompanying this blog post were taken by Nicholas Emenhiser.

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