I am fortunate to work in a field that allows me to spend a great deal of my time visiting commercial business districts and meeting with the individuals who strive to preserve and revitalize those districts. They spend countless hours marketing the district through social media and elaborate and laborious events. Money is spent on marketing and district maps to try and attract more people to visit. Committees create business and building inventories to develop a greater understanding of what the district contains. Fundraisers and membership campaigns carry on in support all of these activities. I continue to be amazed at the amount of work being accomplished in these communities where revitalization has been made a top priority and the difference that is being made by a group of committed individuals.
Yet in district after district, the upper floors remain an enigma, a vestige of a quaint era when people used to travel vertically by stairs. First floor space is a priority in downtown as everyone wants to have retail shops to attract visitors and avoid appearing to have a vacancy problem. Upper floors are used for storage, pigeon habitats or district kindling. People seemed surprise when a fire occurs, yet it shouldn’t be a total surprise considering the amount of square footage in a tightly packed district full of flammable materials that goes unchecked for years. The inevitable result of any building that is not maintained is fire or structure failure, it is not a matter of if, but when.
These upper floors are far from a liability though. They are opportunity disguised as storage. Earning income from 1/2 or 1/3 of an asset makes as much sense as buying a car and removing the back seats and trunk. The cost of maintenance remains the same, but the utility is reduced dramatically. While I understand that there will be more debt, utility costs and property management fees associated with occupying the upper floors, it is still proportional and makes for a sound investment. Upper floor housing is actually a much better investment then first floor commercial when you look at typical vacancy rates. First floor commercial space is harder to fill than upper floor housing, which in turn costs the property owner more money in lost rent, turnover costs and marketing fees. A typical property owner must maintain the building systems and exterior with income from one floor instead of spreading the cost over multiple tenants. While any investment is a risk, I believe property owners would find upper floor housing to be a safe bet and may find that their municipality has a plethora of tools and or incentives available to assist with the process.
The benefits of upper floor housing are tremendous and revitalization organizations would do well to make this a priority when it comes time to strategic planning. Upper floor residents generate considerably more income for property owners, providing them with the resources to maintain and improve their buildings. Downtown residents spend five times more in the district then downtown workers. This is a huge benefit to all of the restaurants and retailers located within the district. Residents also give the district a vibrant and welcoming feel by creating a neighborhood ,where before there was just a shopping district or an office park.
The key to sustainable districts is multiple uses, as each use relies on the other use to survive. How many entertainment districts have dried up in previous years? Are office parks and suburbs going to attract the next generation of workers and residents? Mixed use districts have been around since the advent of cities and we would be wise to make sure our downtowns continue to offer every use.
I lamented the sad news this past weekend when my parents showed up from Michigan to my house in Columbus, empty-handed.
“Did you know Butler’s Bakery closed?” was their surprised greeting.
Butler’s Bakery was a locally-owned, Main Street, bakery located in Van Wert, Ohio, that sold a garden-variety of baked goods, but what we really loved were their egg noodles. First introduced to them at a Main Street training back in 2008, I chuckled when our host announced we would have the privilege of eating “life-changing” noodles with our chicken lunch. While I’ve never had “life-changing” anything before with a meal, these noodles *were* excellent and I made a note to ask about them.
Finding out they were made at Butler’s, and available for sale, I bought some the next time I was through Van Wert, and have stopped at least a couple times a year to pick some up each time I traveled to Van Wert, or was passing through to Michigan.
Unfortunately, as with so many things, Butler’s wouldn’t be here for forever, and there would come a day when I was passing through (or my parents were) and we’d find Butler’s closed.
Downtown Van Wert still has a lot of great amenities, not the least of which is their recently restored historic courthouse, but there’s one less downtown business providing its unique character to a unique downtown. And there’s one more former patron looking for a new source of life-changing noodles.
A few weeks ago, I finally got around to watching Morgan Spurlock’s POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. The most interesting part of the film was learning of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s Lei Cidade Limpa, or Clean City Law. The law went into effect in 2006, banning billboards, most outdoor posters, and bus advertising, as well as graffiti.
As an Ohioan, it’s certainly difficult to imagine living without the constant barrage of advertising. They seem to be everywhere. Depending on where you live and what you do with your day, you have the potential to see thousands of advertisements a day. In addition to being information overload, outdoor ads can become visual pollution if executed poorly. The Highway Beautification Act of 1965 was implemented to help curb some of the bad taste, but it clearly has some shortcomings. When I was helping my friend move to Colorado in 2005, I could not believe how many billboards I passed between St. Louis and Kansas City in Missouri. I would not be exaggerating in saying at least 500 in 3 hours of driving. Not exactly a scenic drive. While Missouri may be extremely friendly to billboard advertising, 4 states have banned them outright: Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, and Vermont. Others have mode of delivery bans. Arizona recently banned electronic billboards.
So, what effects have been seen in Sao Paulo? According to a 2011 survey, 70-percent of residents supported the ban. Graffiti and street art can still be seen in the poorer areas of the city and marketers still hope for relaxing of the law. Several media sources cited the need for building improvements. With the billboards, posters, and graffiti gone on many buildings, years of neglect are beginning to show and have presented the city with new challenges.
Personally, I wouldn’t miss billboards if they were banned in Ohio, even the one I saw in Cleveland a few weeks ago that informed me of current NFL scores as I drove by. It was possibly the most useful billboard I have ever encountered. Typically, I look at a few dozen a day as I drive around Columbus, but I could only tell you the messages of a few that I find amusing. I think this is true of most people. We’ve learned to ignore them. And if such a ban were even discussed in the Ohio Assembly, business would be front and center in this discussion. As with any change, businesses will overreact, claiming doom and gloom, but they will survive. It may take some creative solutions, but marketers will still find ways to get information to you. It could even have a few positive benefits for businesses and customers, not to mention for the aesthetics of communities, the rural landscape, and nature.
What’s your take on outdoor advertising? What, if anything, would you like to see changed?
Tonight a big decision is being made on a local historic district, which presents a good moment to reflect on our opinion regarding the issue.
Design review is an overlay, designed to protect property values – a property rights issue! In recent years opponents to design review have twisted the same language with success, it is about property rights, “I have the right to do whatever I want” …regardless of its impact on neighbors and their property values.
Tonight Mackinac Island will decide whether or not to enact a historic district with design review. That’s right; Mackinac Island the quaint historic isle in northern Michigan which has 1 million visitors annually via its heritage tourism economy has no “protection.”
Free of automobiles since 1898 to protect the charm, but not so for their built environment. Between 1970 and 2000 over 100 buildings were torn down. Cheap contemporary intrusions, vinyl siding and the like is allowed and proliferates. In 2008, the National Park Service put the island’s National Landmark status on a watch list, because there is no protection for historic structures and integrity is eroding. Last year the 125 year-old McNally Cottage on Main Street was torn down and a new motel was built (a design that many of us might question as being compatible). Now another large modern hotel is proposed to be built at the dock, large enough to block the view as you come onto the island. If it matters, by an investor who doesn’t live on the island.
If your economy was based on heritage tourism would you really leave it up to chance? Are they so confident that visitors will continue to come regardless of the historic integrity?
Truly the make-up of a community is not only about how much money can be made. Remember in “It’s a Wonderful Life” when Bedford Falls changed to Pottersville? Integrity is an issue for people, businesses and communities, particularly when being marketed as a historic community.
Ohio has 71 National Historic Landmark sites, see HERE, three of those are communities, Glendale, Mount Pleasant, and Mariemont, each have historic district review to protect the assets that define their community.
New developments use design review as do historic developments, to maintain property values, and in tourist destinations such as Charleston SC to protect the economy of the region as a whole.
What do you think ?
For the National Trust’s 10 Steps to Establish a Local Historic District link HERE
Check out a preview of the latest edition of Heritage Ohio’s quarterly publication, Revitalize Ohio, here. The current issue highlights:
- Ohio Main Street’s Winter Events
- Nate’s preservation progress in the Old West neighborhood of Toledo
- Heritage Ohio’s 2011 Annual Report
Plus more revitalization and preservation issues available exclusively to our members. To become a member click here.
We wanted to let you know that registration for “The Buck Starts Here” is now live. You can register here. What is “The Buck Starts Here” you ask? So glad you did! It’s a two-day training on February 25 & 26 that we’re very excited to bring to you, in partnership with the Ohio Historical Society, the Ohio Local History Alliance, and Goettler Associates. A training designed for small nonprofits, The Buck Starts Here will cover critical fundraising topics including:
Board Development (developing a board to take an active role in fundraising)
Case Statements (creating and fleshing out your organization’s case statement to assist you in making your case to funders)
Annual Campaigns (tips for running effective annual campaigns to provide your organization with a regular funding stream)
Donor Stewardship (learning how to develop meaningful relationships with your donor base to increase your funding base over time)
Effective fundraising is a critical skill for any small nonprofit to master. With this in mind we’ve kept the registration fee affordable at only $50 for the full two-day training, thanks to the generous support of the Jeffris Foundation. You’ll also have the option of joining us for dinner on Monday evening for $20 if you’d like. Each attendee will receive a notebook filled with information on fundraising for future reference.
We do require that two people from each organization register for the training in order to ensure each organization receives the most benefit from the training possible.
If you need accommodations while in Columbus, we’ve worked out a special room arrangement with The Westin Columbus for $109 per night. Just mention “Heritage Ohio” when making your reservation.
We hope you’ll plan to join us in Columbus, but hurry, space is limited, so register today!
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 614.258.6200 for more information and stay tuned to our website, eblasts, and Revitalize Ohio magazine for updates!
Yesterday the Ohio Development Services Agency (the former Ohio Department of Development) announced the tax credit awards from the 9th Round of the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit. You can read the full release here.
The big projects we’ve seen in the past are back again (Cleveland rehabs account for tens of millions of dollars in project costs); however, we also continue to see the emergence of smaller projects. The Lazarus House Apartments in Columbus will be rehabilitated into three apartment units in Columbus, at a total project cost of $265,860, taking a state tax credit of $46,195. While I love to see big projects such as the East Ohio Building in Cleveland with its 65 million dollar construction impact, I’m even more heartened to see the scale of projects receiving funding. I could envision the Lazarus Apartments happening in any of our Main Street communities, and I know if we can pump more construction investment into our Main Street communities, they will be better positioned to thrive far into the future.
Stay tuned to Heritage Ohio and Ohio DSA for updates on the state tax credit. For now, the next date to remember is March 30, 2013. Round 10 applications are due then.
Best wishes to you for a prosperous 2013 filled with preservation & revitalization!
Executive Director Downtown Fremont Inc. – posted 12/17/2012
FREMONT – The Board of Trustees of Downtown Fremont, Inc. is searching for a new Executive Director. Resumes will be accepted until January 4, 2013 or until the position is filled. The position description, list of qualifications and information on how to submit a resume can be found on Downtown Fremont’s website at www.downtownfremontohio.org
For information contact: Mike Jay, Chairman, Downtown Fremont, Inc., 419-334-5905
As we all know, funding and fundraising for preservation projects can be both difficult and frustrating at times. While traditional avenues may still bring in a larger sum, crowdfunding websites may be a great place to get your fundraising campaign started and to hone your message to potential investors. By far the most popular crowdfunding site is kickstarter.com. Kickstarter was launched in 2009 to fund creative projects such as artwork, music projects, and other creative endeavors. Soon after, a multitude of projects from every imaginable facet of creativity came pouring into the site. According to the website, over 30,000 projects have been funded by over 2.5 million people to the tune of $3.5 million and counting.
I have participated in a few Kickstarter projects, an even split between products I wanted to invest in and receive, and philanthropic donations. While visiting one of my favorite blogs, I saw a story for a Kickstarter proposal for the Blue Mouse Theatre in Tacoma, Washington. I wondered how common preservation projects were on Kickstarter. After playing around with different search keywords, I found several successfully funded preservation-related projects. I’ve selected a few for variety’s sake, but I suggest you take a look for yourself.
- Save Mid-Century Modern Architect Andrew Geller’s Archive
- Save the Historic Patio Theater
- Preserve Chicago’s Living History of Improvised Music
- Cleveland Architecture Coloring Book
If you’re thinking about trying a crowdfunded campaign, I have a few suggestions for you. First and foremost, do some research. See if there are similar projects out there and talk to those fundraisers about their experience with it. Find out what they would have done differently. Also, take a look around the web and get some books on the topic. It’s a relatively new concept, so there are plenty of new books coming out that address crowdfunding and similar topics. One I read recently was Makers by former Wired Magazine Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson. The book deals with a lot of topics that revolve around small-batch manufacturing, which Anderson sees as a major future component of manufacturing. One chapter is devoted to Kickstarter and the experiences of some inventors with the site. The material is very translatable for any preservation project.
Second, have a great story to tell. In my opinion, there is nothing more important than having a good story to pitch to these potential investors. I would wager that even the most amazing gadgets funded at hundreds of thousands of dollars on Kickstarter won people over with the amazing stories told in the video posted on each project page. So, as a preservationist, you’re going to want to tell the history of the building, what it means to the community, why it needs to be saved, and what you want to happen with the structure. In addition, this is a great way to get feedback on your story. When your project is funded, ask your funders about your story and what else they would have liked to have heard.
A major component of Kickstarter is the tiered-rewards system for backers. You set the values and rewards. I strongly urge you to make them count while being fulfillable. Often, projects promise the world, get a lot of money, and then realize they have to fulfill what they promised. So keep them intriguing, reasonable for the amounts, and something you want to offer. A night of tours might be much more rewarding to you and the donor than an agonizing marathon session of personalized, handwritten thank you notes.
Finally, make your goal achievable. Nothing will doom your project faster than aiming for the moon. You may need $100,000 to preserve the windows of a historic building, but wouldn’t it be nicer to get the $10,000 from Kickstarter and plan the rest of your fundraising strategy around that momentum. Remember, it’s an all or nothing game with most crowdfunding sites, so plan appropriately.
Heritage Ohio’s Preservation Pop Quiz is back (thanks to Preservation in Pink for supplying a great blog idea!) One of my favorite buildings in Ohio is pictured below. It’s a county courthouse that looks much like it did when it was constructed in 1858.
Here’s an additional visual hint: the courthouse features nearly symmetrical wings. The north wing pictured below originally housed the Recorder’s and Treasurer’s offices. Can you guess the city and county where this iconic historic courthouse is located?
Submit your answers in the comments section below. We’ll update you soon with the answer to the location question. Good luck!
Answer Update: The above images show the Ross County Courthouse in historic downtown Chillicothe. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!