Change Starts Here: Preservation Priorities for President Obama

The parade is over and the balls are history: Barack Obama is officially the 44th President of the United States.

Just as it has with administrations from both parties for many years, the National Trust for Historic Preservation is eager to work with the Obama Administration on policies that protect and enhance our country’s irreplaceable historic resources, but we can’t do it without you.

From Main Street to your street, President Obama can provide leadership for strong and effective federal stewardship of our heritage that builds livable, sustainable and economically-viable communities while preserving our history for future generations.

As we continue to work with the new administration, we want to hear from you. Tell us which of the following action items have the biggest effects in your community, and then post comments with your own unique preservation stories and ideas.

Preservation and the Economy

Main Streets across the country – both urban commercial centers and rural downtowns – are struggling. President Obama should propose preservation-based economic development incentives, such as expanding the historic rehabilitation tax credit that created 40,000 new jobs last year and has, to date, leveraged over $45 billion in private investment and returned over 34,800 buildings to productive reuse.

Historic Preservation and Sustainability

As opposed to new construction, preservation responsibly conserves the built environment, which is an effective tool for reducing carbon emissions, combating climate change, and saving money on energy bills. President Obama should support measures that provide strong incentives to reuse and retrofit existing homes and buildings, recycle materials, increase building efficiency and maximize inherent environmental benefits.

Historic Preservation and Natural Disaster Relief and Preparedness

Devastating natural disasters have damaged historic structures and communities in the Gulf Coast and the Midwest. Because natural disasters have an immediate and widespread effect on historic properties, President Obama should develop a preparedness plan including a proactive, comprehensive survey of disaster-prone historic resources as well as addressing urgent response and recovery.

Historic Preservation and Transportation Policies

Transportation and preservation share a common goal to create better lives for Americans. As Congress prepares to reauthorize our nation's transportation programs, President Obama should continue to fund transportation enhancements and propose policies that support preservation-based approaches to strengthening our nation's transportation resources, such as the reuse of existing infrastructure in older and historic communities.

Historic Preservation and Public Land

A variety of threats, including insufficient historic and archeological survey information, expose millions of acres of public land to vandalism, destruction and neglect. President Obama should provide agency-wide leadership to responsibly manage historic and cultural resources on public lands.

Historic Preservation and Federal Stewardship

The federal government funds the national historic preservation program and provides critical leadership among its agencies to care for historic resources. President Obama should propose full funding to protect our heritage, and ensure that preservation reviews take place in the earliest phases of project development, not as an afterthought.

Comments

This story is closed to new comments.

Submitted by Anonymous at: November 14, 2008
Although many see the relationship between re-using older buildings and sustainability, some feel that older buildings can only be made energy efficient through complete "gut rehabs." Good case studies and efficieny data are needed to show that older buildings can be made energy efficient without removing (and sending to a landfill) tons of important historic features.

Submitted by Deborah at: November 13, 2008
I think responsible zoning would be a first step toward intelligent planning and preservation. Here in the West preservation often gets nudged aside when developers are given priority, the excuse being economic stimulation. There has to be a better way.

Submitted by Erin at: November 13, 2008
Many historic properties, mainly homes, are in private homes and being used for non-commercial purposes. Some of the owners are good stewards of their property, thereby preserving it for future generations. However, to do so takes both knowledge and funding. I would like to see more information made available for homeowners on how to preserve the character of their property while making it meet the needs of today, particularly in the area of energy conservation. Tax breaks or refunds of some kind could also encourage property owners to do the correct preservation as opposed to finding a cheap, historically inappropriate soultion at the local home improvement center. We need incentives for, and guidance on, preserving the domestic architecture of our country while still preserving the rights of private property.

Submitted by Anonymous at: November 13, 2008
Great idea, happy to participate, a Nantucketer

Submitted by progressive preservation at: November 13, 2008
YES WE CAN. After reading Obama's autobiography, I feel more comfortable with the idea that he will stand up for preservation issues. After all, a lot of the work that he did in Chicago indirectly assisted with preservation efforts. Mr. President-Elect, don't let us down. I know there are a lot of very important issues that you will need to deal with over the next four years because of the mess that the current administration has made, but preservation still needs you. Preservation has an impact on so many of the issues for which we are now seeking change. I voted for you, I believe in you.

Submitted by Barbara at: November 12, 2008
"To prepare for the future, we must remember our history. It's hard to picture our Nation's future without the past. Heritage preservation involves preservation of the physical heritage of communities including their buildings, structures, and sites. It includes the protection of landscapes that societies transformed through agricultural and industrial development." Preservation of legislation (HR 3981 and S.2262) must remain intact - Preserve America and Save America's Treasures. "Both programs enhance heritage tourism and public-private partnership in historic and cultural preservation. Preserve America also fosters reuse and interpretation of cultural resources that form the social, education, and economic fabric of communities. The Save America's Treasures grant program funds "bricks and mortar" improvements to historic structures and assets."

Submitted by Tracy at: November 12, 2008
In my relatively short lifetime (43 years), I have seen too many historic sites obliterated in my neighborhoods. They can never been replaced and oftentimes the destruction is later regretted. It is so sad. Something needs to be done! My husband and I have bought and restored three homes but we are only two people. The Illinois Main Street program is a good one, but perhaps this could be expanded to include residential areas as well.

Submitted by Anonymous at: November 12, 2008
yes we can.

Submitted by shanna at: November 12, 2008
We need to find a way to preserve historic homes and buisnesses in our cities without adding to the aspects of gentrification that often push poor and working class families out of the neighborhoods that they have ties to and have lived in for generations.

Submitted by Anonymous at: November 12, 2008
The public policy of supporting or promoting new infrastructure development for housing development, new schools, malls, shopping centers etc. while we let our downtowns die becasue we "can't give money to private investors" is rediculous.

Submitted by mike at: November 12, 2008
Quick available disaster funds must be available to retain historic buidlings when a natural disaster strikes. The usual response is to demolish the damaged building and history is lost forever. Training of local officials must be available to allow for proper evaluation of damaged historic buildings and retention of our local built history.

Submitted by COBRA at: November 11, 2008
I am involved with a property ( CONSTITUTION HALL Topeka) This property is on the National Register and an Underground Railroad site. Was the territorial FREESTATE CAPITOL of Kansas 1855to 1861 and states capitol 1861-1870 Abolition Headquarters for the area.First substantial building in the city Is connected to numerous famous people.Lanngston Hughes,James Lane,-- Birthplace of the Atchinson, Topeka ,Santa Fe Railroad- (CyrusHolliday) etc.etc.One problem --We struggle for funding like all historic preservation projects--We are recognized by the National Park Service Network to Freedom but even they have struggled for funding this catagory. What's the answer ??? Cobra in Topeka Kansas

Submitted by Ken Elliott at: November 11, 2008
Sustainability is a key problem here in the Midwest. There is virtually no money anywere to help with rehab and renovation. It's mostly private money when it happens and that's not often because private money can usually build new cheaper than renovating or restoring a historic property.

Submitted by Jayne at: November 11, 2008
I agree with Scott's comments. By pushing the sustainability ideals behind preservation, they will become more attractive. That combined with new, less obtrusive ways to heat and cool older properties will also make them more attractive to people who heretofore wouldn't have considered such a building.

Submitted by Anonymous at: November 11, 2008
Increase tax credits for "Downtown "historic projects and also utilize "Green" energy saving programs

Submitted by Susan at: November 11, 2008
I would like to see the Section 106 process strengthened. In many cases, government agencies pay lip service to the process, and manage to work around it.

Submitted by tigereve at: November 10, 2008
After the last eight long years (past few centuries, really), perhaps the most immediate craving many people may be sensing is the necessity for a deep and cathartic healing on our collective, national soul. As President-elect Obama didn't make a campaign promise to be a healer, per se, hopefully it can be appreciated that the din of the hue and cry will be disturbingly loud – so many are feeling the pressures of need, and have for years been calling in vain for assistance and to be heard. Since there will be large numbers of outstretched hands seeking alms, it seems that as a gesture of community, all must try to assess their most pressing requirements with great care, because everyone can’t get all their needs met at the same time. In this spirit, I examined the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of action items and considered how to order them by priority. It was hard to keep from checking every action on this list, but trying to take a dispassionate look, I focused on getting the maximum benefit for each choice, because alas, choices must be made, so what most needs to be attended to first? Unfortunately, I couldn’t whittle the list down past four items, namely: Historic Preservation and the Economy, Historic Preservation and Sustainability, Historic Preservation and Transportation Policies, and Historic Preservation and Federal Stewardship. It is my belief, that as long as the economy remains unstable, people will be drawn to survivor mentality, which is likely to perceive that all budgets must be reduced to the bare bones. So, the greatest need is to strengthen the economy (“Historic Preservation and the Economy”) as quickly as possible to free up spending for additional projects that will further bolster the economic outlook by creating increased needs for workers: (“Historic Preservation and Sustainability,” and “Historic Preservation and Transportation Policies”). In truth, these three actions may well be taken as a triple package, because improving the sustainability consciousness and preservation-based approaches to supporting our transportation resources will have the net effect of improving the economy. Finally, “Historic Preservation and Federal Stewardship” can help to direct Federal dollars (hopefully generated by the increased creation of jobs for workers) towards caring for our historic resources. The choices that our country needs to make in the near future will be challenging, but it is essential that we make these choices guided by wisdom. How fitting that your organization has the wisdom of the ages at hand, to study and consult in the days ahead.

Submitted by BoBo at: November 10, 2008
Glad to the the Trust is already working with the new administration. Hope that the Main Streets of America get some help.

Submitted by Jim at: November 10, 2008
We really need to figure out a way to improve the energy efficiency of old buildings, without putting in aluminum frame windows...

Submitted by DH at: November 10, 2008
Each of the initiatives is important. I live in a "tear-down" community. It is currently difficult to convince many that preservation can be "green", environmentally friendly, while maintaining a connection with our history. Many would prefer a new edifice.

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