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Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 10 Historic Preservation Stories from 2012

We're getting nostalgic here for 2012, with a New Year right on the horizon. Having said that, here are a few of the stories we can't forget from this past year.

10. Spinning off of National Main Street Center as a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. After a distinguished career spanning more than 30 years, preparations are far advanced and well underway to spin off the National Main Street Center as a subsidiary of the National Trust. A new Director is being sought and a Board being assembled as we speak. Expect announcements very early in the New Year. Maintaining this highly successful economic development program should be a high-priority for anyone with an interest in historic preservation.

9. Anticipating the 50th Anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act. While the 50th anniversary of NHPA won't fall until October 15, 2016, preparations have already begun to mark this monumental advancement in the preservation movement. There would not be a National Register or Advisory Council on Historic Preservation without this important Act. Get informed, and, more importantly, prepare to recognize this milestone in your community in 2016.

8. Threats to the Historic Preservation Tax Credit. Despite creating billions of dollars of new investment for communities throughout the U.S., both the Federal preservation tax credit and numerous State credits are under siege. The Michigan Preservation Tax Credit was ended on December 31, 2011, and we're still waiting to see the full results. In the near-term the Federal credit appears to be safe, though as austerity measures set in a hard fight to retain the credits is likely to follow.

7. End of the Save America's Treasures grant program. The U.S. Congress did not continue funding for the Clinton-era Save America's Treasures grant program in 2011 and 2012. This year the National Trust for Historic Preservation quietly closed their grant office. Absent SAT there are few other programs to provide bricks-and-mortar support for historic preservation. With this grant program also went the staff who so ably managed this program for so many years. This loss in institutional memory was equal to or greater than the actual loss of funding.

6. Saving the David Wright House in Phoenix. This was a slowly evolving crisis played out in the national media. At issue was one of the surviving works of Frank Lloyd Wright without any protections in place. The tendency of the then owner to taunt and tease preservation advocates in public raised the stakes and added to the drama. Ultimately a preservation-minded buyer was found. Serious minded preservationists and especially FLW fans should prepare themselves to never let such a travesty of good judgment ever happen again.

5. Renaming venerable preservation organizations. We've noticed a trend in recent years of preservation organizations bringing focus to their efforts by changing their names. Longer names with "Society" and "Heritage" have been shed, in favor of organizations starting with either Preservation or Preserve, followed by the geographic area the organizations represent. We welcome Preservation Detroit though mourn the passage of Preservation Wayne. In a related matter we mourn the early and unfortunate death of Katherine Clarkson, the past Executive Director of Preservation Wayne.

4. Waiting for the 15 million Local Preservationists to get involved. The National Trust performed ground-breaking market research to identify over 15 million people in the U.S. who shared preservation values though whom did not necessarily consider themselves "preservationists." Despite a refresh of Preservation magazine and increasingly proactive efforts to attract new members, we are still waiting to see the results. When preservation exceeds 1 million active members we will be able to get the attention of policymakers, corporate leaders and others. Until then, more work remains to be done.

3. Disastrous Superstorm Sandy hits the Northeast. We all watched in horror as Superstorm Sandy barreled down. The devastation that it cut is broad and vast. Thankfully the coordinated response by Federal, State, and local officials made a far worse situation more manageable. Our hearts swelled with pride  to see the bi-partisan unity in hard-hit New Jersey with President Obama and Governor Christie walking side-by-side. Recovery will not be immediate and may take years. We hope for places that are stronger, better, and more prepared for future disasters that will inevitably come.

2. Cesar Chavez National Monument established. "¡Si, Se Puede!" We were mildly in awe seeing President Obama welcome this new National Monument in October 2012. People had to be turned away when the initially expected 4,000 people swelled to over 7,000 who showed up for the dedication. This marks a refreshing awareness among leaders in the Federal government of the need and importance to recognize the full spectrum of historic sites that celebrate the diversity of our nation. We still have a long way to go though this represents an important step.

1. Detroit emerging as a center of innovation. New businesses are getting started up, people are moving downtown, and for the first time in many years festive Christmas lights went up along Woodward Avenue. This is thanks to the sustained investment of longstanding leaders joined by new players such as Dan Gilbert and Quicken Loans. A great American city is coming back to life again. Follow this story in the New Year for we suspect as Robert Browning once said, "the best is yet to be."

Have a different take on the Top 10 Historic Preservation events of 2012? Share with us on Twitter @PlacePromo. Thank you, and please accept our wishes for a Happy New Year!

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