38th Michigan Historic Preservation Network annual conference
Wednesday, May 16, 2018, 9 a.m.
Saturday, May 19, 2018, 2:04 p.m. EDT
East Lansing, MI, United States
Historic preservationists are skilled advocates for the work we do although few of us would think of ourselves that way. Our efforts generally attract little attention. We work quietly alone or in a variety of partnerships focused on a goal. Patience is a hallmark.
Think, for example, of the volunteers surveying the architectural resources in their town. Up and down the streets they go taking photos every Saturday; the library research takes months. The volunteers talk with their neighbors about recognizing and protecting what’s special about their community. The best way to do that is with a local protective ordinance they explain. These are not easy conversations because property owners can be wary, but their methodical work leads to passage of an ordinance and designation of the first local historic district.
Or we think of the development team that wants to save an abandoned historic building. They seem to be the only ones, however, who see its potential for adaptive reuse. Seeking financing, the team finds lenders who are skeptical that a worn out building can be reclaimed. The resulting loan-to-value ratio is low so the developers employ their best negotiating skills to secure layers of grants, private equity, municipal loans, and tax credits. The project is a success.
Is this kind of everyday advocacy effective? Yes, just look around. Over 70 governmental units in Michigan have passed protective ordinances because surveys are completed, property owner questions are answered, and public hearing presentations are compelling. For the historic buildings that few see as ripe for development, the developers negotiate their way through the maze of financial packaging. Elsewhere, effective OpEd pieces go into local papers, challenges to state enabling legislation are thwarted, foundations make grants to game-changing projects, and blogs speak to the unlimited possibilities of historic properties. Preservationists masterfully use the facts to convince, persuade, influence, and win over. With tact, they coax people and projects along. When energies are flagging, they inspire and encourage. And it goes without saying that they applaud, encourage, praise, and cheer on!
Our conference this year recognizes just how much proactive preservationists have gotten done in Michigan to maintain their traditional downtowns and neighborhoods, understand and protect their pre-historic and historic archaeological resources, safeguard architectural treasures of the recent past, revitalize their Legacy Cities, counter development pressures on shoreline and agricultural communities, and more. We’ll ask the question: Can we recognize that we do indeed possess finely-tuned advocacy skills that can be harnessed to overcome bigger challenges, take on daunting projects, and bring people along with us on our mission to safeguard what’s special about Michigan?
Janet Kreger, firstname.lastname@example.org