preservationLIVABILITY: A Reading List

By Forum Online posted 08-18-2016 14:54


With the end of summer quickly approaching, we are kicking off our annual PastForward reading lists! Over the next few months, we’ll be providing a curated selection of reports, articles, and videos to prep you for our annual conference. We hope that they’ll spark discussions come November 15–18, when PastForward arrives in Houston, Texas. Haven’t registered yet? Don’t forget that rates go up after September 15!

Livability: Arts and Equity

This first reading list focuses on preservationLIVABILITY, a conference theme that will examine smart strategies for preserving and rescuing older and historic places in urban areas. The content will emphasize the role of small developers and preservationists in doing this work and will provide tools and best practices to navigate the intersections between preservation, smart growth, equity, and sustainability.

Ideas from a book by National Trust for Historic Preservation President and CEO Stephanie Meeks (with Kevin C. Murphy) will resonate throughout all of the tracks at PastForward. In The Past and Future City, Meeks explains how saving and restoring historic fabric can help a city create thriving neighborhoods, good jobs, and a vibrant economy. This book explains the critical importance of preservation for all our communities, how historic preservation has evolved to embrace the challenges of the twenty-first century, and the innovative work now being done in the preservation space in cities across America.

A portion of the book describes the National Trust's work in cities to make adaptive reuse the default development option. This work, called ReUrbanism promotes building reuse as essential to economic growth and vibrant communities. Read the ten principles for ReUrbanism.

We’ll kick this track off with the preservationLIVABILITY TrustLive—a live-streamed marquee presentation that will highlight diverse perspectives on preservation. The keynote speaker will be Rick Lowe, an activist-artist and the founder of Project Row Houses, a community-based arts and culture nonprofit in Houston's northern Third Ward. Lowe’s work centers on the use of public art as a strategy for developing and revitalizing communities. He is also a MacArthur Fellow.

Listen to Lowe present a lecture entitled “Revolution in Public Practice” at the Creative Time Summit:

And Lowe isn’t the only one thinking about neighborhood development through the arts:

Data, Development, and Demographics

PastForward will also include a series of classroom sessions that will build on the TrustLive, examining issues like equitable development, preservation strategies (new and old), tools and technology that can aid our work, and collaboration between preservationists and planners.

The preservationLIVABILITY track will debut the city atlas project, an exciting new tool that the Preservation Green Lab is launching in November. The atlas is a national online data platform that will measure and illustrate the connections between the built fabric of American cities and key indicators of livability, diversity, and resilience. Through maps, charts, and graphs, the atlas will provide a comprehensive overview of the age, size, and use of buildings and blocks in major U.S. cities. Much of the material in the atlas will be pulling from new and existing research from the Preservation Green Lab, like:

Conference attendees will also hear from staff at the Kinder Institute for Urban Research, a multidisciplinary think tank focused on urban issues in Houston, in the American Sunbelt, and around the world. Together with the Preservation Green Lab, they will demonstrate how data from the atlas can be augmented with external information—in this case from the Kinder Houston Area Survey—to better understand Houston’s recent development and demographic changes.

Houston in Flux: Understanding a Decade of Bayou City Development,” a 2015 report from the Kinder Institute, “quantifies, visualizes, and analyzes new construction and demolition in Harris County between 2005 and 2015. By showing both demolition and construction, this report spotlights the effects of economic booms and busts, illuminates the locations where development pressures are either most extreme or nonexistent, and draws attention to communities rebuilding themselves within a decade.”

Partnerships and Placemaking

preservationLIVABILITY will also examine the expansion of tools, strategies, and partnerships that seek to preserve places in the 21st century. The Incremental Developers Association, which “envisions neighborhoods regenerated by small developers who deeply care about the places where they live and build,” provides such resources. The Association works with developers to build up neighborhoods gradually, rather than through large-scale, overnight transformations, guided by the belief that “incremental development actually helps neighborhoods become stronger with time by allowing them to mature gradually instead of locking them into boom-and-bust cycles that are common with larger developments.” While the Association offers a number of resources, we are highlighting this talk by John Anderson of Lean Urbanism:

In a similar vein, Chuck Marhon from Strong Towns—a national media nonprofit that is “building a movement of a million people who care”—talks about the importance of local development and engaging people in creating strong cities and towns. Listen to him—along with individuals from Placemakers, a planning and design firm that looks at the full scope of placemaking in projects—about their work in one of Strong Towns' weekly podcasts, or watch his TEDx Talk:

Smart Growth America’s recently report, “Amazing Place,” delves further into the idea that traditional tools aren’t enough to develop and support a community. This report looks at six cities—specifically their use of smart growth and placemaking strategies in developing a competitive edge.

Also check out the HiFi History episode featuring Kevin Daniels—a National Trust board member based out of Seattle—who examines saving places from a developer’s perspective. Daniels describes some of the challenges developers face in rehabilitation and makes suggestions for preservationists and developers collaborating on a project. He underscores the importance of coming to the table with a solution-oriented mindset and trying to build consensus, cautioning preservationists against pre-conceived perceptions of developers.

Finally, we recommend a session from The New York Times’ Cities for Tomorrow Conference. In “Preservation: Pride or Prejudice?,” PlaceEconomics and Heritage Strategies International principal Donovan Rypkema and Harvard professor Edward Glaeser discussed historic preservation, affordable housing, and hot-market cities. Rypkema and Glaeser examined the merits of preservation in New York City—specifically how density and/or preservation contribute (or don’t) to affordable housing and how preservationists must work to change perceptions of the field.

Resources From Forum (Open to All)

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