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 rik at: November 8, 2008
homeowners are in desperate need of tax breaks as incentives to maintain their historic homes. Why do businesses that own properties get help from the federal government but not individuals and families who own most of our country's historic homes?

Submitted by skippy at: November 8, 2008
In our region we have a town that has over the years gathered homes and structures and placed them in a Heritage Square-they didnt stop warrented development nor struggle to play the waiting game whilst the structure and site languished. By foresight and much love they collected and built up a wonderful microcosm of their shared past-so much to learn of their ancesters so much to share. I propose all towns care - have a fund to begin collecting structures in need (not all need to be pulled from site-we have in my town a stagcoach tavern on a main stagecoach line near a fork that speaks VOLUMES at the crossroads in more than one way!)) for the preservation of some very important stories within these walls. Not only the power of inspiration that yes humans are capapble of creating much beauty with skills we can still learn. Also- why, what should we keep and what can we let pass on.These structures left standing can be a part of this discussion. Setting aside, planning for the future with funding and green space appropriate for the telling...OUR tales to be told at a glorious time now when so many voices are now being acknowledged.

Submitted by Pat at: November 8, 2008
Let's stop squandering two of America's greatest resources, its land and cultural heritage; let's continue preservation tax credits; develop viable multi-modal transportation across the country; bring development back into the core of our communities, the downtowns and inter-cities; create jobs locally and preserve the historic fabric of our communities by providing incentives to restore our older buildings and homes. Our history and attitudes are reflected in many ways, one of which is through architecture. What better way to connect our children with history and a sense of place.

Submitted by Anonymous at: November 7, 2008
Thanks for doing this.

Submitted by Carol at: November 7, 2008
All six historic preservation issues are important, but I would like to see incentives for preserving structures, from private homes to factories and public buildings of every type. Incentivizing preservation over demolition would force developers and builders to think creatively about adaptive re-use, and this would slow the destruction of our architectural heritage in every community.

Submitted by Janet at: November 7, 2008
PRESERVATION WAS AT THE FOREFRONT OF THE 'GREEN' AND SUSTAINABLE MOVEMENT LONG BEFORE IT EVEN HAD A NAME! Without much local, state, or federal assistance, preservationists have done a remarkable job of reclaiming traditional areas of the country, especially those most distressed. With no funds concentrated in the hands of funders, and no great wealth generated for those who do the work, preservation remains a bootstrap operation with rarely a dollar wasted or misused.

Submitted by JMA at: November 7, 2008
The damage wrought by the hurricanes to historic properties in Louisiana remains an open wound. I personally have been involved with four historic forts that have not had any FEMA funds spent on repair and reconstruction of wonderfully significant, vital, and much loved historic sites that once restored would be economic generators in their own right. At present, we do not have a responsive and willing partner in FEMA in moving any of these projects forward. We as a nation owe it to Louisiana to finish what we started and make good on our promises. As a bonus, these four major projects would provide jobs in economically distressed areas.

Submitted by Anonymous at: November 7, 2008
bring back the railroads, recycle the buildings - make America beautiful !

Submitted by JT at: November 7, 2008
For each local community, rehabilitation and reuse present greater economic opportunities and the importance of encouraging this activity should be underscored to the new administration.

Submitted by Kaye at: November 7, 2008
It would be economically wise to create stronger incentives for preserving and sustaining assets that already exist, especially if they involve investing in "green" solutions. In addition, investment in rail transportation, especially as a way to link communities in the Northeast, would lessen dependency on limited resources, cut down on automobile emissions and their damage to historic buildings (and our lungs) and increase mobility and access for all ages of our aging population..

Submitted by Anonymous at: November 7, 2008
sounds good

Submitted by Lisa at: November 7, 2008
All six areas are important, but I would have to make Main Street and revitalization of traditional commercial districts my top priority. Sustainability and transportation issues can be tied in with the above effort to make it more comprehensive in practice.

Submitted by common sense at: November 7, 2008
Why not move federal offices in small communities into the Main Street downtowns instead of exhorbitant contracts that contribute to sprawl? This would put federal employees into the community next to the city and county government employees and support small business that struggle with a lack of customers. two stone

Submitted by Nancy at: November 7, 2008
It was difficult to choose priorities because I think all six areas are very important. I have been a member for many, many years and love to read in Preservation magazine how people find new uses for older buildings.

Submitted by Anonymous at: November 7, 2008
reauthorization/retaining tax credits for hist. pres.

Submitted by kristen at: November 7, 2008
Preservation isn't just about history. It's about taking care of the things we value - community, environment, quality over quanitity, places that enrich our lives. It's not just looking to the past. It's considering the resources and assets we have NOW and how we can build on those resources to shape a better future.

Submitted by 21centuryhp at: November 7, 2008
Lila's post has it about right. We are finally in a new century. With the election over there is a chance to build a new economy based on conservation not just consumption. It is time to open up a dialog about CHANGE in the historic preservation field before carrying over requests, no matter how worthy, that are rooted in the past. It is also time to speak with clarity, as our president elect does, rather than jargon. Words like "enhancements are so "last century." "Let's get trains stopping at the stations again", or as Margot's post suggests "Fix it first."

Submitted by mich at: November 6, 2008
RAISE THE HISTORIC TAX CREDIT TO 30% - - give rehabbers an incentive to move forward in these challenging times! GREEN America - Preservation & Rehab will build America!

Submitted by Glenn P at: November 6, 2008
Historic Preservation in Communities should be a priority on its own or an element of all these headings. Sustaining culture means sustaining communities, and not only the wealthiest. Good transportation policy sustains healthy urban communities; sensible land stewardship sustains rural communities; local investment sustains all kinds of historic communities. I'm optimistic that the new administration will be able to grasp these relations and hopefully push policies that preserve the places we value.

Submitted by bet at: November 6, 2008
Keep up the good work!

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