The next decade will "make or break" historic preservation in this city. Cincinnati will either continue on a "blight=Bulldozer" mentality, or it will realize that it's architectures is perhaps it's "ace in the hole" to make Cincinnati a first class city that is a real destination that people from across the country, if not the world, come to and be able to compete effectively with cities like Indianapolis, Louisville and Columbus for new business.
The preservation community needs a "long range plan", a 10 year plan if you will. Just where we want to take our city in terms of historic preservation. In my view the preservation community is often "putting out fires' fighting to save a house here and there from demolition and when its something big, like an architect designed house by Hannaford, we generally do a decent job of rallying the troops. But overall, we are losing the battle.
We need marketing. CPA isn't getting proposals for Hauck House, and not to be overly critical, BUT, they have not marketed this house is any "real way" to the national preservation community. No ads in historic property.com or preservation magazine or This Old House. You MUST have national exposure to find a buyer of a one of kind house like this AND get a decent price that would allow CPA to do other things in the community as well as get something with the financial resources to infuse millions into Dayton street.
For that matter we need to approach the business community and partner on using Cincinnati's historic architecture as a marketing tool to attract new business to attract tourism dollars to the city.
But most of all we NEED something new in terms of community historic preservation organization.
The Community Council does not address the real needs of the preservation community. We need to create a Historic Urban Neighborhoods of Cincinnati Board. This group needs to be made up of people from areas that need the most help. Areas like Price Hill, Dayton Street, Fairmount, Westwood, Avondale, Sedamsvile and OTR. The areas that, if we do not reverse the trend of low income house conversions to rentals and the city addressing "blight' issues with a bulldozer we stand to lose a large part of the cities heritage. Lets bring the people who are actually doing things together to perform "triage" to develop a real plan to save these areas and get some real communication going. Most importantly, we need to be focused on Preservation and historic re-development ONLY.
We need to develop more local block club development. The traditional "neighborhoods' in Cincinnati are far to large to be effectively governed. We need to set up smaller groups that would be under umbrella organizations that can work quickly on "Big Picture" issues and provide training to local block clubs on how to handle the smaller issues.
We have to do effective fundraising and education about historic preservation. We need to develop a series of well planned historic home tours in "urban challenged" neighborhoods to show the public that there is restoration, that things are changing that neighborhood people are "afraid' to travel in are in fact safe. Each of the neighborhoods I talked about above need their own website, a historic walking tour brochure that is provided to the state for promotion of tourism and we need "linkage' so business HR departments have this information, as well as local colleges.
We need to stop apologizing for loving old houses and trying to save them. We need to stand up to the "gentrification' arguments with clear concise answers as to why historic preservation does not preclude a multi income neighborhood. Neighborhoods need to come to the defense of each other so if there is an issue in one neighborhood the city is dealling with all of us. We need to stop "kidding ourselves" that the current city government and the mayor cares about preservation or listens to us.
We need to lobby.
Lobby for a change in state laws that would preclude a property sale unless all back taxes are paid. A move that would stop the "slumlord shuffle' that out of state LLCs use to avoid city repair orders and hearings. If these LLC's had to pay the taxes on some of these houses they wouldn't buy them as they wouldn't be cost effective. We need a local law to prevent the purchase of any Tax sale property by those who have orders against a property in the city.
We need to lobby for a State level "Urban Pioneer Tax Credit" a 5-10000 tax credit , perhaps applied over 3 years to offset some of the cost associated with buying a condemned or VBML property and restoring it. We need to create an avenue where a VBML or demo order can be easily lifted when a responsible owner comes along who demonstrates significant financial investment and progress on a property.
We need to organize the Preservation community into a power base that can shape city council policy. If necessary, we need to field our own Preservation candidates or be sure to support candidates willing to put IN WRITING that they will support the policy and agenda of local historic preservation. We also need to get over the idea that the city will help us by throwing a little money our way. We need to apply for grants, we need to go after federal funding, we need to lobby for a city Land Bank and seek grant and funding sources for it so rather than demo, we restore, we need to do our own fundraising.
2010 is a few months away, we need to get started or in 2020 we will all be siting around talking about all those historic homes we used to have and how Cincinnati is like a dying Detroit!