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Is Ohio Next?

Have you kept up with the recent proposals coming from the Wisconsin and Michigan legislatures? Legislators in both states have sought to weaken laws when it comes to local design review. In Wisconsin, perhaps the most chilling language in the proposed legislation (you can read the full text here) focuses on what a property owner can do with his/her property:

“A city may not designate a property as a historic landmark without the consent of the owner. A city may not require or prohibit any action by an owner of a property related to the preservation of special character, historic or aesthetic interest, or any other significant value of the property without the consent of the owner.”

Chelly 2014 with other building

Would you think historic buildings would be endangered species in a local historic district? They will, if Michigan and Wisconsin legislators get their way.

Do you read this the way I do? If passed, this legislation would allow the owner of a property in a local district the right to alter or demolish the property, regardless of its historic significance. Which means that maybe the local district’s most important reason for existence, preventing shortsighted demolitions that erode the strength of the district, gets tossed out the window.

In Michigan, the legislature proposes (bill text here) additional hurdles for keeping their local districts in existence:

“A historic district in existence on the effective date of the amendatory act that added this subsection shall dissolve 10 years after the effective date of the amendatory act that added this subsection unless the question of its renewal is submitted to the electors in the local unit at the regular election immediately preceding the date that the historic district would otherwise dissolve and a majority of those electors voting at the election approve the renewal of the historic district.”

So, if you like and want to keep your historic district, not only does it go away as a rule after 10 years, but in order to keep your district you have to convince a majority of voters in your city to grant the district another 10 years of existence. Interestingly enough, when deciding to delist a local district, the legislation doesn’t seem to require the same popular vote hurdle.

So, what’s wrong with private property owner rights? Nothing. But cities need to balance community needs with individual rights. In a historic district, you can’t just protect your investment by keeping your property in great shape. If every owner surrounding your property decided to replace their historic buildings with vacant, weeded lots, what would happen to the value of your property? That could be a real possibility if Michigan’s proposed legislation is allowed to pass.

Whenever I see copycat legislation pop up in nearby states to Ohio, I always wonder when the same proposal may find its way to Ohio. I hope our General Assembly doesn’t have proposed legislation up its sleeve to gut the benefits of our local design districts, but after seeing what’s happening in Wisconsin and Michigan, I wouldn’t be especially surprised to see something like this proposed.

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Heart Bomb 2016 just days away!

This year’s Valentine’s Day will include a first for Ohio: a coordinated statewide heart bombing of selected buildings. The Young Ohio Preservationists have partnered with Columbus Landmarks Foundation in Columbus, and with 13 different Main Street programs throughout Ohio to supply hearts for decorating historic buildings.

So, what exactly is heart bombing? The National Trust’s web site defined heart bombing this way: “It’s the act of showering an older or historic place with tangible expressions of affection and devotion–preferably with lots of other place-lovers in tow.”

Heart bombing the buildings you love is a great way to call attention to their plight, if vacant/underutilized, or to celebrate the historic buildings that provide your community’s sense of place.

Thanks to YOP for taking the lead on this visual celebration of historic buildings in our state, and the people who love them!

(You can keep up on all the goings-on during Heart Bomb 2016 by visiting the YOP facebook page here.)

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Putting the call out for Old House Fair vendors and sponsors

We’re excited about our upcoming second annual Old House Fair in Medina’s historic downtown on Saturday, May 7. We’ll have sessions geared toward owners of older buildings, and we’ll be bringing back the Old House Fair Olympics, giving attendees the opportunity to test their old house skills in a competitive (but friendly!) setting.

Bernice Radle will be our special guest. She recently starred in the latest season of American Rehab, airing on DIY Network, and brings an amazing energy and enthusiasm for preservation. We’re happy to have her join us!

Sponsorship and vendor opportunities are available. We hope you plan to join us! You can learn more about sponsorship and vendor participation below.

Click here to learn more about the Old House Fair.

Click here for information about Title Sponsorship.

Click here for information about the full range of sponsor/vendor opportunities.

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Wonderful Wood Windows!

Here in central Ohio we’ve had our first real blast of winter over the last couple of days…snow flurries, temperatures in the 20s, teeth-chattering winds, the whole nine yards. And, if you live in an old house with wood windows (like I do), you’ve likely felt that wintry reminder when passing by one of those windows.

So, maybe it was just a wintertime coincidence (or destiny) that one of the first emails from a concerned Ohioan to Heritage Ohio in 2016 brought a plea for help, requesting assistance to convince the owner of a historic building not to dump their original wood windows.

As you can imagine, this is one of the most common email discussion roads we go down. Too often, this is what we find: building owners ready to toss their original sash because they don’t function. The sash are painted shut; the sash, if opened, don’t stay up (the sash cords broke long ago); or, as in my case, when you walk by the window in the dead of winter, you can feel the breeze inside the building. In that case, weatherstripping is the issue.

While solving any of these window issues isn’t especially difficult, too often, the owner freezes once that thought, “the hassle of repair,” goes through their mind, and they reach for their tablet to google “window replacement.”

There has been a lot of marketing from the replacement window industry extolling the virtue of replacement windows. When it comes to windows, we’ve gone through a good 40 years of purging the word “maintenance” from our collective consciousness, while the window replacement industry has trained people to believe that the “hassle” of repair is a fate worse than death.

To counter this, we preservationists have begun promoting the value of preserving original windows with groups such as the Window Preservation Alliance. And the National Trust has recently put a greater focus on quantifying the value of wood windows, why preserve, and how best to preserve. Their report, Saving Windows, Saving Money, has been especially helpful for us. The report quantifies the energy savings, cost, and return on investment for a variety of window treatments, including weatherstripping, installing an exterior storm, and installing a new high performance replacement window. And guess what they found? DIY weatherstripping offers an average 31% return on investment, while DIY high performance replacement windows offer a 3% return on investment.

That shiny stuff Rebecca Torsell is nailing onto the jamb may be bronze, but when it comes to energy efficiency, it's worth its weatherstripping weight in gold.

That shiny stuff Rebecca Torsell is nailing onto the jamb may be bronze, but when it comes to energy efficiency, it’s worth its weatherstripping weight in gold.

And this is exactly why YOP offering their hands-on window repair training last year in Columbus was so valuable: giving homeowners the skills to tackle DIY projects such as window repair and weatherstripping SAVES MONEY, while saving the architectural integrity of their homes, while saving money on the heating bill.

Now if only we had the billion dollar marketing budget to get THAT message out!

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Call for demonstrators: 2016 Old House Fair

Heritage Ohio’s second Old House Fair will be held in May in historic downtown Medina, and we’re putting the call out now for demonstrators to submit session proposals. We’re looking for artisans interested in teaching and/or demonstrating on masonry, plaster, windows, stonework painting, energy efficiency, and controlling moisture, just to name a few ideas.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can review our Call for Demonstrators here, and contact Frank Quinn (614.258.6200 of fquinn@heritageohio.org) with any questions you have.

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The Tax Credit Roundup

We’re celebrating the most recent announcement of Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit awards (Round 15, for those of you keeping score). Here’s a selection of newspaper articles from across the state, highlighting some of the award recipients and their projects.

This cincinnati.com article provides an overview of the Cincinnati projects receiving credits.

Check out an overview on Cleveland projects from Crain’s here.

In Cleveland, the downtown Huntington Building will use its $25 million catalytic award to help defray a $270 million project. Read more here.

An iconic Bexley movie theatre is among the Columbus-area projects to benefit from the latest OHPTC round. Read more here.

Dayton’s long-neglected Steam Plant will receive tax credits to spur its redevelopment.

In Eaton, a former high school will be converted into senior housing.

Downtown Newark’s Brunswick Building is slated for redevelopment.

Wittenberg joins a growing list of Ohio universities utilizing tax credits to redevelop their historic buildings. Read more here.

For the basics of the program, you can learn more at ODSA’s website here.

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ODSA releases list of Round 15 OHPTC recipients

Micro Living at Long Street in Columbus is one of the projects awarded funding in Round 15

Micro Living at Long Street in Columbus is one of the projects awarded funding in Round 15

This morning at the Drexel Theatre in Bexley, the Ohio Development Services Agency released its list of state tax credit recipients. With total project costs ranging from $300,000 to $270 million (yes, really…270 million dollars), the OHPTC program shows its worth to the big projects in the 3 Cs of Ohio, as well as in the smaller, courthouse communities. Congratulations to all of this round’s recipients! Read the ODSA release here.

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Advocacy Alert: Proposed tax credit act needs your support!

To the excitement of preservationists across the country, the Historic Tax Credit Improvement Act (HR 3846) was introduced Wednesday, October 28. So why the excitement? For starters, HR 3846 offers the following tax credit improvements:

1) Small deals (less than $2.5 million in qualified rehabilitation expenditures) would see the eligible credit jump from 20% to 30%.
2) Transfer of credits as a tax certificate could give owners of smaller projects greater flexibility to bring in investors, and make capital easier to access.
3) Substantial rehabilitation (the threshold for becoming eligible to take advantage of the credits) would drop to 50% of the adjusted basis from the current 100%.

Add in better treatment of state tax credits when it comes to federal taxation, and other improvements, and you can begin to see how these changes, if passed, could inject a wave of new investment for countless small project rehabs.

Here in Ohio, we have Representative Pat Tiberi, and Representative Mike Turner to thank for helping lead the way as original co-sponsors of the bill, but we’re reaching out to you today, to encourage you to contact your representative, to ask him or her to sign on as co-sponsors for HR 3846 (or to thank Reps Tiberi and Turner for their support). You can find your representative here.

Check out this one-pager from the Trust, which summarizes the bill and how it improves the current federal historic tax credit.

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Available for redevelopment: The Xenia Carnegie Library

The historic Xenia Carnegie Library, listed in the National Register of Historic Places in February of 2015, is available for redevelopment. The building is eligible for rehabilitation tax incentives.

The Classical Revival-style two story building is located in a mainly residential neighborhood with a mix of 19th and 20th century homes. The building retains a high degree of interior and exterior ornament. Although vacant for more than 20 years the building appears to remain structurally sound.

Interested inquiries may be directed to the Greene County Commissioners at 937.562.5022.

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Have you checked out the Building Technology Heritage Library?

When it comes to historic preservation weaknesses, I have a few (ie, many). And right up at the top of the list are plan books. These historical publications may have covered contemporary house plans, painting palettes, or more esoteric subjects such as cast iron storefronts. As an example, Sears was going all out during the first half of the 20th century, hawking their “Honor-Bilt” homes in their ubiquitous catalogs.

I love perusing these plan books because they provide great insight on what people were building or using, and can provide good rehabilitation inspiration. So, you can imagine my excitement at being reminded about the Building Technology Heritage Library, the multi-year project from the Association for Preservation Technology to digitize these resources and make them available through the Internet Archive. Now, all you need is an internet connection to review the Sears 1936 catalog (go ahead, see what Sears had to offer here) and literally thousands more. Happy online reading!

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