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.


This story is closed to new comments.

Submitted by Heather at: November 10, 2008
We love our historic home and the work it takes to preserve it. The old moldings, floors and mantles set it apart from new construction. Our house has been standing for 104 years and I promise you it will last for 100 more. Can't really say that about new construction.

Submitted by Lower East Sider at: November 10, 2008
Historic Preservation is key to keeping us honest about the past, as a bookmark of important ideas and concepts of living, and as a ruler by which to measure the prefab, empty, demoralizing and environmentally unfriendly architecture that springs up in our midst. The Lower East Side of New York City (NYC) is in the cross hairs of over development, faceless comercialization, and encroachment by educational institutions on a development rampage backed by hefty endowments. The mom and pop stores are disappearing along with the special relationships they had with their residential neighbors. Even though the NYC City Planning Commision and the Local Community Board is working along side community groups on protective rezoning major sections of the area, there are entire communities not yet included in the process, such as Chinatown. The rezoning seeks to enact height and density restrictions though there are corridors within the current rezoning area that allow building out of context with the surrounding area resulting in hotel towers that rise above the majority of six story structures. The Lower East Side has long been home to the immigrant from foreign land as well as those who seek other forms of freedom. It's cultural significance is worth protecting as is the architecture and the sense of community. It's hard to separate the three without further diluting the unique quality of this community and many others across the country that are cherished by their inhabitants.

Submitted by Shadows at: November 10, 2008
I keep watching as building with architectural and historical significance are left to rot and fall apart. Then it is said that it would be too expensive to preserve or restore them. No effort is made when it is still possible but suddenly when Wal-mart or a casino want the land it is declared too late and too expensive to preserve them and they are razed. I’ve watched much of Bethlehem steel be destroyed for a casino and I hear the historic Richmond Power Station in Philadelphia is to be leveled in 2009. How can we as a people have a sense of unity and place when we constantly bulldoze our history and forget our past?

Submitted by gloria at: November 10, 2008
It is dificult to encourage historic buildings and battlefields when there is so much violence and vandalism in our country

Submitted by Bill at: November 10, 2008
In brief: federal support of state historic preservation offices has remained unchanged in real dollars for over twenty years. SHPOs provide front-line services to the preservation community and in many states have been relegated to near-invisible status. The federal-state-local partnership that is the foundation of the federal preservation program is often a model of inter-governmental cooperation, yet it is woefully underfunded. Full funding for SHPOs and THPOs should be a priority.

Submitted by Norrinrad at: November 10, 2008
NO To you and your increasing can Not manage History Espically when you don't know where it is. EVERY culture Uses AND Builds OFF the Previous Cltures . EVER herd of a Museum!!! More People Require More Land.instead of Stealing our land you should be giving Grants to those who Happen to have Land that has Some Historical Intrest and Boy is That Subjective depend on Who you ask. so Where dose it do NOT own HISTORY And you cannot presume to have Sole posession. Besides it is Not people so much as the WEATHER and EROSION you should be concerned with. We the people are your Greatest Asset,Grants would allow you access to more info and artifacts than Your people could EVER find.

Submitted by Anonymous at: November 10, 2008
Actually, I approve of all six of the above.

Submitted by Michel at: November 10, 2008
We all know that the emphasis in the US Dept of Transportation has been focused highway construction for motor vehicles the consequence of which has been urban sprawl. The result has been the decimation of U.S. cities. It is time to reverse this trend; public transportation and bicycle lanes must become a priority.

Submitted by Scott at: November 10, 2008
Historic Preservation is inherently a "green" industry and should be relentlessly promoted as such.

Submitted by Steve at: November 10, 2008
Increase funding for local CLG grants.

Submitted by Cee Jee of DE at: November 10, 2008
Federal government should oversee local planners' activities more closely. My experience as a homeowner of historic property was a nightmare. L & I charged me $3,500/year for property being vacant. Planning Dept. w/i L & I withheld memo that was required (by L & I) to secure the building permit to do the repairs and make property livable. Knowledgeable of the holdup by Planning, L & I, repeatedly, refused to waive the fee which for activities of the Planning Dept. L & I forced me into court for non-payment of vacancy fees for 3 yrs. The Planning Dept liturature stated that the Memo usually takes 3 business days to approve the homeowner's plan. It too the Planning Dept 3 yrs to approve my plan for repairs. My plans involved no changes that would require historic board review. During the process, the State's position was that the local government oversees local activities of the program. And would not get involved. So, the Federal government needs to be involved more closely in the locat implementation of historic projects. In my opinion, the local gov. caused failed to protect the property. But, cause further and extensive damage in its failure to allow me to make repairs, as stipulated in the Fed. Historic Preservation Guideline Manual. My plan adhered to all of the provisions. Planning actually chased my contractor, during emergency repairs, off of the property. Whatever the local planning dept's incentive is to prolong historic repairs, should be removed. It would stimulate the economy tremendously if the Fed. government would provide homeowners stimulus in the form of grants to be able to adhere to guidelines. If a member of City Council had not began to ask questions, I would have lost my home. The process drained my bank account. Planners should be screened more closely to determine their personal interests in the properties. So, even though I had a low interest loan from the DE Preservation Fund, Inc. The project is near bankruptcy. I have an excelleant Restorationalist, who is dedicated in preserving the property. But, he is not making what he should be on the project. Once a property has been through the Review. It should flow through to all future owners. Properties deteriorate and are damaged by repeated reviews. There is no reason why a review should expire or a property must undergo multiple reviews for the same maintenance and repairwork, when they do not make changes to the structure. The incentive for forced repeated reviews should be removed by Fed government.

Submitted by HWD at: November 10, 2008
Hopefully preservation will be valued as an economy booster in the new admin.

Submitted by tet at: November 9, 2008
hard to choose from these priorities, they are all crucial. thank you for your hard work!!

Submitted by Skipper at: November 9, 2008
If it is true that visitors (tourists) are looking for historic places to see and enjoy than it is important to preserve and promote what we have, i.e. preservation and economy as the two can work together. Funding or seed money can stimulate.

Submitted by Clare at: November 9, 2008
All good priorities, especially the sustainability issue connected with reducing our carbon footprint.

Submitted by Jay at: November 9, 2008
The skippy/House Detective debate is a tough one. While I agree that the house looses its historical context when it is moved, I live in a city where a museum park is a good alternative over the developer's wrecking ball.

Submitted by House Detective at: November 8, 2008
Skippy, the problem wiht relocating houses to mothball parks is that you lose the historic context that makes the houses significant. Stacking them next to houses from entirely different historic contexts renders their stories meaningless. They sink to the role of a disarticulated artifact. Here in San Diego, we have Heritage Park and no one undetstands the meaning of the 12 or so old Victorian buildings. Now days, we fight to save them in their original context along wiht their archaoelogy and landscape setting.

Submitted by mdh at: November 8, 2008
Great ideas, let's get them going!

Submitted by FRJ at: November 8, 2008
White Plains, NY has a Frederick Law Olmsted designed property currently known as New York Presbyterian Hospital. We fear that it could be sold to developers unless sufficient funds are made available to preserve it as the historical park that it should be.

Submitted by Anonymous at: November 8, 2008
Keep up the good work.

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