A few weeks ago an article was posted to the Preservation Professionals group on Facebook. You can read the article here: https://www.rewire.org/how-discussions-of-neighborhood-character-reinforce-structural-racism/.  The article is an interesting discussion of how redevelopment can impact the the neighborhood qualities and characteristics especially in relation to affordable housing.  The example used in the article is from St. Paul, Minnesota and the proposed development of a Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant (closed for over a decade).  A developer purchased the site and proposed an adaptive reuse with 3,800 housing units of those 20% would be affordable housing.  Based on these facts (as I know them) I do not think this is inconsistent with the neighborhood, it is preserving the buildings, and affordable housing is a problem in America that needs a solution.  There are studies that mixed income neighborhoods are mutually beneficial (https://www.useful-community-development.org/mixed-income-housing.html).  The neighbors lived near an operating auto manufacturer for many years and it do not have a negative impact on the property values and I would assume housing would be less disruptive than manufacturing to the surrounding area.

Locally there is a proposed redevelopment of a former hospital site in North West Lancaster (near Franklin and Marshall College).  Reading the numbers of units the developer is proposing (a total of 245 units projected on the low end.  With 120 as low-and-moderate income units) will significantly alter this neighborhood.  I understand that the developer needs have a certain number of units to make the financials work for the project.  Here’s a link to the article from LancasterOnline: 

https://lancasteronline.com/opinion/editorials/development-of-former-st-josephs-hospital-site-in-lancaster-holds-promise-editorial/article_92163b1e-d04b-11ea-9c97-2bcd76442638.html

I agree that redeveloping the existing building is positive for the community.  The proposed number of units is concerning to me from a streetscape standpoint.  They are proposing, “Building 25 to 30 row homes for sale along West End Avenue between West Walnut Street and Marietta Avenue, restoring how the block looked before it became hospital parking.”  I am sure there were never 25 to 30 row houses in one city block.  There are traditional row houses in this neighborhood (along with larger single family homes – it was part of the first push to the suburbs from Lancaster City).  The Sanborn Map below shows the neighborhood with the original hospital building (replaced in the 1960’s):

Squeezing 25 to 30 row house on to a single block will change the look of the neighborhood.  The Secretary of Interior Standard #9 states, “New additions, exterior alterations, or related new construction will not destroy historic materials, features, and spatial relationships that characterize the property.  The new work shall be differentiated from the old and compatible with the historic materials, features, size, scale and proportion, and massing to protect the integrity of the property and its environment.”  Any proposed new construction should be required to meet these standards.

There is not a one size fits all answer to development and preservation.  I remind people that zoning and development decisions are made at the local level.  If you want to help shape the development, demolition permission process, or the historic preservation protections you must get involved locally.

Lisa Craig, principal of the Craig Group, joined the Practical Preservation podcast to discuss information about her work in historic preservation and specifically resilience planning. We covered a multitude of topics including:

  • Her diverse background and 30+ years of experience in all aspects of historic preservation, and how “water being the enemy of any historic structure” triggered her transition to focus on the impacts of rising water levels on historic coastal and riverside communities
  • How her work as former Chief of Historic Preservation in Annapolis, MD inspired her to provide consultation on resilience planning to climate- and flood-impacted communities and cultural resources all over the U.S., as well as how resilience planning can assist communities, organizations, and individuals prepare for, withstand, and recover from disasters
  • The importance of protecting historic “heritage assets” that provide architectural character and economic income to communities
  • The necessity of community engagement as well as partnering with local officials and planners to ensure successful resilience planning (part of the inspiration for her company’s name)
  • Tips for owners of vulnerable historic structures in terms of practical steps they can take to protect these assets, including investing in flood insurance
  • Suggestions for fellow preservation professionals to offer mentoring to interns, to ensure the continuity of the field via the next generation of preservation professionals

 

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For more information on how you can be part of the movements to protect historic community and heritage assets from disasters, climate change, and other threats, Lisa recommends: tuning into the America Adapts Podcast on climate change adaptation, as well as following webinars provided by Main Street America.