Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Growing Preservation Outreach & Educational Opportunities

Saturday's workshop brought some out who had never attended a CPA event. we need more of that!
I really enjoyed doing the workshop for CPA on "Old House/ New Owner" and the 'good thing" I saw was that every time I attend one of these events I see new people. This is a good thing as it means we are growing Preservation.

Clearly over the last few years, Preservation has come to the forefront in many people's minds. The Gamble House for example, is perhaps a watershed moment in Cincinnati Preservation history, because the Gamble house is something that anyone can look at without ever thinking about "preservation' and say "yes, thats important and should be saved." The recent issues with 142 McMicken , the Oakley train station, and most recently Euclid in Corryville are moments when the Preservation community is stepping up and saying enough is enough.

However it seems like we are often "late to the game". Often we only are alerted about things at the last moment and we find ourselves scrambling to save things. Local Preservationist are often "out of the loop" on things until its often too late and we have to change that. One way we do that is requiring notification from the city on issues like 106 reviews, zoning planning issues etc.
Cincinnati is one of a very few cities where you see details like this everywhere you look...but you have to look!

The other 'disconnect' is that we have not done a good job at the local Community Council level on preservation education and the benefits of Historic Preservation as an economic development tool. City officials however have been very good at dangling that demo monies out there as a 'solution' to blight issues and as we all know, we trade a blighted property for a blighted vacant lot. So we must focus our efforts on preservation education to community councils and helping them realize that their history is an asset to community building, attracting new residents and improving the overall quality of their community by preservation of that history.

If Community Council's knew the economic benefits of historic restoration, the number of jobs created by a house restoration, the local revenues to business people who supply materials etc, verses the city "blight=bulldozer" model which employs few people, only for a few days and is largely expense related. While Federal demo monies may keep some city officials employed, it does nothing to provide local jobs. So one area we need to work on is education about Preservation at the Community Council level and growing neighborhood groups.

The other area, is the real "disconnect" is  between city inspections and  preservation. When I opened my forum up to questions the first thing I heard was problems with city inspectors not 'getting' what they were trying to do and making totally unrealistic demands on homeowners to do "gut rehabs" when Preservation's goal is to save historic fabric. Clearly we have inspectors who have never been trained or educated on what Preservation is, and how it is different than what the inspector usually works with. typically some slumlord patching a house together with vinyl siding , replacement windows, plastic pipe and a prayer and get it done as quick as possible so they can make money. We MUST  offer some educational workshops geared to city inspectors and key officials in the inspection department. Perhaps it should be 'mandatory training' and perhaps Ed Cunningham will see the value in this and seek some Educational training for his inspectors. Based on what I have observed, his department has a major "image problem" and is out of touch with preservation interests. That clearly needs to change.

Hundreds of thousands go to Findlay Market every year but never realize just a few blocks away on Dayton street are some of the finest mansions in the United states?
We also need to conduct a more public outreach. We need to bring preservation to non-preservation minded people who are already in a preservation setting. In my mind that might means a  booth once a month at Findlay Market where we have Preservation displays or a Preservation topic type of thing. Perhaps we could partner with Findlay  Market on a "resource center" where people visiting the market could pick up brochures or self guided walking tour pamphlets on various emerging neighborhoods. Maybe a "Neighborhood of the month" display in one of the windows of the empty shop spaces. Hundred of thousand visit Findlay Market every year. They drive there from suburbia, circle and circle until they can find a space in the 'Safe' parking lot, go into Findlay but never explore the area around it or any of the neighborhoods they drive through to get there. We can change that.
Do people know for example, that there are grand mansions like this in Fairmount?

We need to expand our "conversation' about preservation to a new broader audience if we are to win the preservation battle. The economics are there as the one area the city can actually grow it tax revenue is by restoration as a more stable growing-in-value, property tax base will be important as various State and Federal resources go away. It is in the city's  interest to restore our neighborhoods and raise property value, we just need to 'educate' them to this. That way in 10 years we can look back about how Preservation brought people to Cincinnati and our population grew instead of declined.

1 comment:

Neil said...

Good place to start is the Corryville community council which is the 2nd Tuesday every month at 6pm. Corner of Eden and University at the Rec Center.