Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Want to create jobs and conserve energy? Re-use a building!

The message that preservation is the ultimate form of "green architecture" is gaining traction at the national level. The National Trust's blog today points to a new ad by the WE campaign (Al Gore's organization) that highlights how rehabilitation of historic buildings is a great way to conserve energy and create jobs. You can watch the 30-second ad on the National Trust's blog.

Posted by Katie Eggers Comeau, Director of Preservation Services


Monday, December 15, 2008

Preserving Susan B. Anthony's Neighborhood

For about a year, the Susan B. Anthony Neighborhood Association has been working together with the Landmark Society on a mini-grant program for homeowners in the Susan B. Anthony Preservation District. Funding for this project came from the sale of two houses that were donated to the Landmark Society and sold to new owners a few years ago.*

The mini-grant program got underway in the fall of 2007. We had 12 applications and all applicants were granted monies for exterior repairs to their homes. The program has been successful with over eight completed projects this year and three scheduled for early next spring.

Because the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood is a city-designated Preservation District, all exterior projects must be in-kind replacement or must be approved by the Preservation Board in advance. This can be a challenge. Our local chain hardware stores do not carry the same width or styles of posts that were used on our pre-Civil War era homes.

At the same time, working on these old houses can have unexpected rewards. One project became a community effort to repair front porch steps and railings. On a very cold November day a tent was erected over the front porch at 37 Madison St. The homeowner and several neighbors came together for five days under that tent to recreate the exact porch rails and steps that needed repair or replacement. They spent days on details to recreate the exact posts and rails that were original to the home. The collaboration amongst neighbors ensured that the finished project was designed exactly as it was designed over a century ago. Now the tent is gone and the front porch and stairs look exactly as they were originally designed, and will remain so for many years to come. It was enjoyable as a friend and neighbor to watch every day as they worked together under that tent and progressed on their project. Historic preservation grant programs can do more than preserve properties; they also can nurture and preserve the communities they serve!

By Dawn Noto, President, Susan B. Anthony Neighborhood Association

*An earlier phase of this project, in which architect John Bero met with individual homeowners to discuss maintenance and rehabilitation issues, was partially funded by a grant from the John E. Streb Fund of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Landmark Society Comments at Midtown Public Hearing, 12/2/08

Statement by Katie Eggers Comeau, Advocacy Coordinator, at the public hearing on the Midtown project DGEIS, December 2, 2008

A team from the Landmark Society is reviewing the DGEIS and preparing our formal comments to be submitted in writing later this month. In the meantime, I would like to commend the City on leading a thoughtful process that has provided many opportunities for public input, and would also like to thank the City and its consultant team for many months of careful planning and serious thought about the best possible future for this challenging property.

Midtown Plaza, particularly the atrium, is a significant and unique historic resource that potentially presents a wealth of opportunities for reuse as part of a revitalized city core with a distinctive character. Our preference would be to see the atrium integrated into a creative reuse of this site.

At the same time, having participated in the planning process, we recognize the serious economic and physical obstacles that limit the viability of such a reuse. We recognize the constraints that saving the atrium would place on the rest of the site, particularly the circulation pattern. That said, we would support any ongoing efforts to find a suitable reuse that could still save the atrium.

Midtown was a pioneer in its day, an innovative concept that was heralded by the national media and by planning experts across the country. It remains the most fully realized and most intact example of the work of Victor Gruen, a nationally influential architect specializing in retail design and urban planning in the 1950s and 1960s.

If the ultimate decision is to demolish the atrium, we believe that loss can be mitigated only if it is replaced by an equally forward-thinking, high-quality design that functions as a true gathering place for the center city. It is too soon to tell if the open space now envisioned for the center of the Midtown block, the approximate site of the atrium, is an urban amenity of sufficient quality to mitigate the loss of the atrium, but we will strongly urge that this urban landscape not be an afterthought but a bold, innovative example of civic design.

Finally, and most importantly, we remain concerned – particularly in this extremely difficult economic climate – that we could see a situation where the demolition occurs but the funds for redevelopment dry up, leaving a vast empty space in a crucial part of downtown. We strongly urge the city to pursue phased demolition, only demolishing what is certain to be rebuilt, and to put in place any mechanisms that would prevent this devastating scenario.

We look forward to submitting our formal comments. Thank you for the opportunity to comment tonight.

Posted by Katie Eggers Comeau, Advocacy Coordinator


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Landmark Letter in Newsweek

Laura and I made Newsweek!

Posted by Katie Eggers Comeau, Advocacy Coordinator