View from the West Coast

From the Preservation Alliance’s executive director, Jennifer Goodman

My recent trip to San Francisco and the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual conference offered me updates and insights on the national preservation scene and how we are doing comparatively in the Granite State. Others like hearing from us too: over the years, I’ve presented and shared “best practices” including our work with conservation colleagues, preservation easements, creation and use of tax incentives, and barn preservation at this major event.  Special thanks to Innerglass Window Systems for supporting my trip!

Here are a few of my observations, with an over-arching “think big” theme:

Look beyond the building. Communities around the country and world are exploring the identification, promotion and stewardship of large cultural landscapes especially in the face of major energy projects (transmission lines, oil and gas development, etc.), and rising sea levels.  In New Hampshire, we have a good foundation for this sort of work: Preservationists and conservationists see the benefits of working together (and are often the same people!). National Register work done in the Dublin/Harrisville area and Squam Lakes watershed as well as Freedom’s Way Heritage Area (FWHA) in the south central part of New Hampshire and research done for the Northern Pass proposal offer good models.

In my presentation for a session called “Landscapes in Peril,” I offered advocacy strategies and emphasized the need for a proactive approach.  Some cool other examples I heard about: stewardship of the hill farms in the Lake District in England (a UNESCO World Heritage site with home of Beatrix Potter and lots of sheep) and the work of Jane Lennon in Australia. Also, check out livinglandscapeobserver.net.

Reach beyond the norm.  When communicating the benefits of preservation investment, folks in New Hampshire and elsewhere frequently make the connection between preservation and community development, job creation, tourism and housing, and other disciplines; new information about the public health benefits of old buildings and preservation activity is useful and inspiring.

How else can we incentivize preservation? Other states without a state income tax like Texas have designed a rehabilitation credit tied to other state tax liabilities. San Francisco has an incentive to help smaller, long-standing businesses survive and thrive.

Use the joy in preservation work as fuel.  Preservation work is complex and challenging in and of itself. And speaker after speaker offered that “living with water” and recent storms and other weather events are our “new normal.” In the face of all of this, it’s especially important to tap the passion and reflect on the joy in preservation activity. Old buildings offer “belonging” or “coming home” feelings, and preservation projects bring people together.  One theme that I see over and over again is how smart, creative teams working together get things done -- that's how buildings get re-used and revived by local advocates, private and public sector developers, and how communities secure and sustain preservation investment.  Let’s do a lot more!