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 Pro-preservation at: November 6, 2008
Rather than asking for more money at a time the federal budget is strained beyond belief, historic preservationists must prove that historic preservation can stand on its own merits, can be self-sustaining, and can be the economic engine that its proponents have long claimed. I realize that federal funding of historic preservation has long been anemic, but now is not the time to try to redress that particular issue. Likewise, historic preservation should not be allowed to become a tool for rebuilding in disaster-prone areas that probably never should have been developed in the first place. This nation can not afford to keep rebuilding in flood zones and hurricane-devastated areas. Instead, the natural synergy between preservation and environmental sustainability should be emphasized so that future generations will be able to enjoy their heritage while also living on a planet with clean air, clean water, and healthy ecosystems.

Submitted by Margo at: November 6, 2008
One guiding principle for preservation and sustainability: Fix it first.

Submitted by Verde at: November 6, 2008
These are all such important issues, but I feel that the specific agendas of 1.) linking preservation to the main street economy, 2.) linking preservation to sustainability, and 3.) saving public land might be the easiest to address by an administration that will be very busy from day one..!

Submitted by Rho at: November 6, 2008
I would suggest that the topic of Historic Preservation Trades Training be included in your list. The training of future historic preservation craftspersons in the field is so important in retaining our national heritage and providing employment in this area. As a historic preservation trades educator, I am frustrated with the lack of support by organizations to sustain this effort as well as the notion that everywhere I go- I hear, "we just don't have the qualified people to do the work", and Federal dollars needed to help create programs seems non-existent. Please add this topic to your list if possible. I would be happy to help with this action item in whatever way I can. Thank you, Rhonda L. Deeg

Submitted by Jim at: November 6, 2008
Our national identity is now under attack with liberals in control of all facets of government. It should be a priority of The Nat'l Trust to protect and defend our historic assets -- especially those that symbolize a free people -- so they are not lost in future generations.

Submitted by mdsquyres at: November 6, 2008
Thanks for taking the initiative with preservation issues. Given the huge challenges facing the nation, awareness of preservation will probably be relatively low on the new administration's priority list. But if the historical & preservation communities keep reminding public officials AND the public at large about history's unquestioned, positive impact on communities - economically, educationally, & socially - we have a chance at making a difference in how Americans perceive themselves, and improving our image abroad.

Submitted by ann at: November 6, 2008
Funding incentives for communities who adopt Historic Preservation Programs with incentives to homeowners who preserve and restore historic structures

Submitted by yapperman at: November 6, 2008
While all of the items listed as priorities are important, nothing in the preservation movement is more urgent than the need to train people in the preservation trades. Because there are so few people that know how to perform preservation oriented rehab, there is little to no competition. Preservation gets a bad rap for being expensive when in truth, if we train people how to compete with the repalcement product industry, we win every time. Preservation doesn't cost, it pays as long as we train people to do it efficiently and cost effectively. We need federal dollars to help train and re-train people which in turn creates meaningful jobs in the preservation trades. Bob Yapp

Submitted by Wade at: November 6, 2008
How about preservation and neighborhood planning, redevelopment, and incorporating minority histories and reconnecting to those communities usually outside the mainstream preservation field. Otherwise I like the list as presented.

Submitted by Anonymous at: November 6, 2008
I think it is time for preservation to come to the fore, rather than throwing out the old that can be retrofitted and making new at twice the price -- or more.

Submitted by Anonymous at: November 6, 2008
i'm hopeful

Submitted by JC at: November 6, 2008
lI like all the choices considered

Submitted by Bob in DC at: November 6, 2008
I think there should be incentives to bring "big box" retailers into abandoned downtown department stores. Imagine if a block-square, six story former department store contained a Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, Toys R Us, etc on each floor?

Submitted by Katie at: November 6, 2008
Everything that promotes historic preservation also promotes sustainability. If President-Elect Obama can internalize this fundamental fact and keep it in mind as he makes environmental/energy decisions we will be in much better shape. I would like to see him embrace this concept and rather than focus on what we can buy or build to demonstrate "sustainability," focus on how we can more responsibly reuse our existing resources. All the other priorities and policies can flow from that understanding. More specifically, we need realistic, effective incentives to put historic preservation and adaptive reuse on a level playing field with new construction.

Submitted by Roger at: November 6, 2008
It is a given that we must support the National Trust while individually voicing our concerns and demands at the state and national levels. Equally important is our responsibility to educate people at the local level and make certain that local policy makers and administrators understand the necessity of protecting and developing our historic and cultural resources. We need to ensure our elected and appointed officials fulfill their responsibilities - to preserve the resources that provide the greatest potential for economic growth, strengthen the greatest link with our past and cultivate our present sense of community. Knowledgable, organized and dedicated (insistant) grass roots organizations can and do make this happen.

Submitted by Jim at: November 6, 2008
federal funding for shpos is the core of the preservation movement. It is essential to safeguard that funding.

Submitted by Kaethe at: November 6, 2008
Grants, tax breaks for rehab and reuse of historic buildings vacant and in disrepair, demo by neglect. we are loosing our history in this down economy when there is so little money for this type of program. It will be too late if something is not done soon.

Submitted by Anonymous at: November 6, 2008
Let's make preservation a priority and an important economic tool in the new administration.

Submitted by lee at: November 6, 2008
Go for it

Submitted by saveit at: November 6, 2008
We must save our cities. So many thousands of beautiful 19th century homes and commercial structures in our cities in danger of passing the point of no return... we need a strategy that will work to save these neighborhoods that have such great potential. Look at Baltimore's Canton neighborhood...

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