Friday, March 13, 2009

Challenges and opportunities in the federal stimulus package

We’ve been hearing so much about the federal stimulus lately, but what does it mean for historic preservation?

Last week, I took part in a conference call for preservationists in the northeastern U.S. who are grappling with what the National Trust for Historic Preservation is calling “the perfect storm:” money pouring into new public works projects at the same time that budget cuts are affecting state agencies – including State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPOs), which are charged with reviewing the impact of publicly funded projects on historic resources.

It was interesting to hear how preservationists in the various northeastern states are dealing with these issues, which present both challenges and opportunities. Whether in the form of public works projects that threaten (or, in some cases, offer opportunities to rehabilitate) historic resources, cutbacks to SHPO staff and programs, or pressures to streamline project reviews, each state is facing a different scenario, and it’s clear from what the northeastern preservationists had to say that we face a huge challenge in trying to get a handle on the positives and negatives.

The National Trust has set up a very helpful website called “The Perfect Storm” where they are tracking stimulus-related issues in all 50 states, explaining how we can help support projects that are positive for preservation and offer alternatives to policies and projects that are detrimental to historic resources.

If you have any thoughts about how new stimulus funding might (or should?) affect historic resources, we’d love to hear them!

Posted by Katie Eggers Comeau, Director of Preservation Services


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