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Hamlet Critical Essays


The Past and Future City: Q&A with National Trust President and CEO Stephanie Meeks

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I also thought it was important to address these issues because sometimes preservation is perceived as the driver of those current trends. We’ve all heard the argument that, if we just tore up the historic fabric in a given city and built a bunch of skyscrapers instead, there would be more housing and cities would be more affordable again. But that’s not in fact correct. For one thing, older neighborhoods are proven to achieve high densities at a human scale. For another, preservation protections are by no means driving the housing shortage in cities. There are other factors at work, such as the fact that almost all new construction today aims to serve the luxury market. One recent survey of 54 cities found that 82 percent—more than four out of every five—of new rental units built between 2012 and 2014 were high-end units. Some cities saw hardly any middle-class or affordable housing built at all.

That’s a much bigger supply and demand issue than historic preservation laws, which, if anything, have helped protect denser neighborhoods that still provide opportunities for residents of all incomes.

Computer Engineering Resume Cover Letter Industrial Throughout the book you emphasize the importance of connection (between people and place) as a strength of the movement, while at the same time quoting leaders of the field who say that preservation has become too procedural and bureaucratized. How do you see preservation balancing the head (supporting the achievability of useable older buildings) and the heart (nurturing that emotional connection to protect the past) of the work we do?

I think this goes back to what I mentioned earlier—the disconnect between the exciting work happening in our field and the way that people outside of preservation tend to view us. Too often, people think of preservationists as the folks who want to tell you, “No, you can’t build a deck on your historic home” or “No, you can’t re-paint that.” There’s a place for local controls, but there’s also so much more to historic preservation than bureaucratic strictures.

We want to lead with our best foot forward, and I think the fastest way of achieving that is by acting as, and thinking of ourselves as, a “movement of yes”—a movement that is working proactively to bring people together, solve problems, and connect us to our past. That’s one reason I wrote this book—to attempt to capture the passion, creativity, and even joy that infuses our work of keeping historic buildings in active use for their communities.

Discount Wholesale Cialis The conversations in The Past and Future City are all a part of a new major National Trust ReUrbanism initiative. What are some of the major goals of this initiative, and how does this publication contribute to these goals?

American cities are experiencing a renaissance at the moment, driven in part by the authenticity, distinctiveness, and character that historic neighborhoods provide. I discuss all the many positive social, economic, and environmental benefits that come from reusing existing buildings—benefits that are lost when these older buildings are demolished.

This is also the essence of our ReUrbanism initiative. In a nutshell, it works to refocus and emphasize these many benefits of preservation and illustrate how saving places can be a tremendous tool for urban revitalization going forward. Preservation isn’t just about the past—it helps cities grapple with the problems of our present and lays the foundation for a stronger future. Taken to scale, it can create jobs, reinvigorate local economies, and help small businesses come to life. It can make neighborhoods healthier and more sustainable. It can help us address problems like affordability and climate change. It can bring us together.

Both The Past and Future City and our ReUrbanism initiative work to highlight these remarkable powers that preservation has to enrich our communities. We hope this initiative will spur more creative partnerships at the city level with leaders and organizations working to encourage growth and solve urban problems. And we hope it will serve to spread the important message that reuse should be the first option and demolition the last resort. Because creating a successful community or neighborhood takes time, and when you destroy a building or other historic asset, it is gone forever, along with all the many positive benefits it might have provided.

 

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