Friday, October 15, 2010

Preservation and Perserverance are the key to Urban Turnaround

I admit to being a news junkie. While some might start off with their local paper.  I start off with google and searches on preservation, restoration and Urban news. I am never disappointed. Everyday hundreds of stories about restorations, house moves, and neighborhood turnaround projects.

One in particular struck me and it points to the fact that Preservation is often Perseverance. The story take place in LA. Now you might not think of LA as being a  hotbed of Victoriana but the city has some fine Victorian era homes. The story was about the completion of a restoration. A restoration that took Thirty Years! Three decades to restore the Westlake Mansion on Burlington Avenue in Los Angeles. Not without adversity he lived next to a gang and at one point put up a 10 foot high fence and floodlights. to protect his home during all that adversity he persevered because the key part of Preservation is Perseverance.

His is not an unusual story , it happens all across the country. people who dedicate their life, or a large part of it to their home. They  look beyond neighborhoods at the moment, but rather to their once rich past to see where they will be in the future. They don't 'write off' neighborhoods like politicians do, they understand that its not the neighborhood thats bad, but the people whom populate  it, or in some cases, the fact that people are not populating , often caused by city governments who have no clue what Preservation is.

Lets be honest, Cincinnati Officials do not "get' what restoration is all about. Our city building department  thinks "restoration"  is what 3CDC does, gut it, make it all modern inside, keep the "shell". And credit to 3CDC for saving those exteriors, but its not restoration its redevelopment. Preservation is saving plaster, keeping those delightful crown mouldings and trim. It is about History

If you read the typical order from a city inspector it says "Gut Rehab" . The Preservation Community needs to educate our city employees that Restoration and Preservation is about saving things not filling a dumpster full of 140 year old house calling home depot and throwing in some new drywall  and tracklights.

You dont go to Charleston or Sanfrancisco to  to see some HGTV loft in a historic wrapper. You go to see restorations. Restoration takes time and patience and perseverance.

We still have city employees who think its OK to tear down buildings in OTR. We have city employees who think its OK to level Fairmount because they don't see the "value' there. Out city legal department operates with a mantra of  R&R ( Redtape and Roadblocks ).

If we want a heritage tourism business in Cincinnati, if we want to create  tens of thousands of new jobs, in my mind we need to start on a serious educational program of just what preservation is, and we have to change the attitude of those city employees who think demo is a good thing. If they can't ,or won't, learn that , then we need to hire people that will and fire those who hold our city back from realizing it full potential.

People want to come to Cincinnati and restore it, at the same time we have people standing in the way. As taxpayers we need to make them understand they they work for us , not the other way around.


Karen Anne said...

Thirty years, that makes me feel better about how long my house is taking :-)

Karen Anne said...

Just saw this about a loan program for "fixer uppers":

Todd McFarland said...

Amen Paul. We need less "exposed brick" and more plaster! And this lead paint hysteria encourages even more unnecessary destruction.

Paul Wilham said...

I agree Todd, interesting to note that in Indy and other cities that were over-built with HGTV style condos, a lot of my business is Reinstalling character (crown moldings, woodwork and fireplace mantles, stenciling and Walls ) back into these former "open concept lofts, so they can be sold in a competitive market.

People should worry far less about their paint in their home and should worry more about the "fresh organic vegetables" they buy grown on Urban land with contaiminated soil and groundwater.

Caroline said...

I don't know about San Fran, but Charleston is starting to fall prey to the gut and rehab mantra. They are not as pristine as people take them for. One project turned an old factory into lofts, and it was a gut/rehab. Of course, turning a factory into lofts makes industrial building should appear industrial in its finally product.
As for houses, I am constantly annoyed by people who want the cache of living in a historic home or neighborhood, and yet they add-on and rehab the poor house until there is very little historic fabric left. It's very disheartening. :-(