Preserving Historic Buildings: What You Need to Know (part 2)

The article below is written by Ron Drenger, powered by Stellar Financial. Please see yesterday's post for part one.

Local preservation organizations have honed a variety of models that donors can use or support to protect historic sites. Some groups, in addition to their educational and advocacy roles, act as real estate developers to preserve significant buildings that are threatened. Preservation North Carolina uses a revolving fund to acquire endangered historic homes - or receives the properties as a donation - and then finds preservation-oriented buyers who will rehabilitate them. Covenants are then usually placed on the properties to ensure their protection in the future.

Historic Seattle buys historic commercial properties and develops them as mixed-use projects, finding new economic uses for structures that would otherwise be lost. The organization also acts as a consultant for other groups and individuals who are working on such projects.

“We’re often the developers of last resort,” says Mark Blatter, Director of Real Estate Development at Historic Seattle. “We’re willing and able to figure out how to preserve a historic property when nobody else thinks it can be done.”

The federal government and many states offer tax credits for the rehabilitation of historic buildings as private homes or as income-producing properties. A property owner can also donate an easement on a building to prevent its destruction or alteration, while receiving a tax deduction for the easement’s financial value.

In addition to the network of private nonprofit preservation organizations, every state has a publicly-funded State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) that identifies historic sites, considers nominations for the National Register, and assists government agencies, individuals and communities to preserve historic properties.

Historic preservation advocates note with increasing frequency that donors and activists who support preservation are simultaneously contributing to the environmental cause. Rehabilitating an old building prevents the waste of the resources, energy and materials that are embodied in the structure, while saving the resources that would be used to demolish and replace it. Adapting a building for a new use - witness the trend toward converting old factories and office buildings into residences - is recycling on a large scale. Revitalizing older and deteriorating neighborhoods can slow urban sprawl, and such preservation efforts often incorporate new energy-efficient, “green” technologies.

“The retention and reuse of older buildings is an effective tool for the responsible, sustainable stewardship of our environmental resources - including those that have already been expended,” says Richard Moe, President of the National Trust. “Historic preservation must be an integral part of any effort to encourage environmental responsibility and sustainable development.”

Donors wishing to support preservation efforts in their community may choose to contribute to a state or local preservation group, or they can designate a gift to the National Trust for a particular area of the country. Those who want to get personally involved in rescuing a threatened building or site that they cherish will find many allies, expert guidance, and significant resources in the preservation network to help make their efforts a reality.

by Ron Drenger

Dana Variano

Posted at 1:00 AM, Mar 19, 2009 in Permalink | Comment

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