Launched in 2014, the Historic Properties Redevelopment Program (HPRP) has, thanks to funding from the 1772 Foundation, worked to build a network of preservation developers across the United States. Recently, Denise E. Gilmore joined the National Trust as the new manager for HPRP. Gilmore brings with her a wealth of experience including a passion for saving historic properties in a way that celebrates the people and the places while creating economic activity.
Prior to joining the Trust, Gilmore worked with the Heritage Consulting Group providing cultural and heritage preservation services to urban communities redeveloping and revitalizing their cultural assets. As president and chief executive officer of the Jazz District Redevelopment Corporation in the historic 18th & Vine Jazz District in Kansas City, Missouri, she led the commercial redevelopment effort for the mixed-use urban district. In this capacity she ensured that the historic district’s redevelopment was in keeping with its cultural preservation. We asked Gilmore a few questions about her experience and her hopes for the future of the HPRP.
What do you hope to bring to the HPRP?
I am truly excited to join the National Trust and especially to bring my experience in community development to the HPRP. I believe that there is a real opportunity for historic properties to serve as catalysts for economic revitalization, particularly in cities and urban areas. I want to be a resource to people seeking innovative solutions for financing real estate redevelopment with the benefit of saving historic assets.
How do you envision the growing the HPRP?
I want to introduce new audiences to the HPRP as a financing vehicle for historic properties. There is an enormous audience of community developers focused on creating affordable housing, transforming arts districts, and revitalizing historic neighborhoods. I believe that the more people implement real estate development tools, the more historic properties can be saved. Many of the established, successful programs have made major impacts in their local communities, preserving historic properties while creating significant economic activity—so why not share this with more of the people doing this work?
How did you become interested in preservation?
I consider myself an "accidental" preservationist. I went to work in a historic district as a finance professional, and somewhere in between the debits and credits, I discovered my passion for heritage and historic preservation. Our stated goal was the revitalization of the district—creating jobs, new small business opportunities, affordable housing, and a resurgence of the arts—and in pursuing that, the historic fabric of the district was also preserved. While the district’s history was the driving force behind preserving the heritage and the place, we recognized that the people and their stories were just as compelling as the physical structures.
Why is preservation important to you?
I often think about the significance of a particular place or structure—who lived there, worked there, worshipped there, went to school there, or socialized there? I think about the people and how their lives intersected with the place, which can be both overwhelming and inspiring.
Preservation is important to me because it gives us opportunities to bring our historic structures to life as places for people to live, work, and play. The preservation of our historic places and cultural heritage allows us to revitalize our communities today while passing a rich legacy on to future generations.
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