Forum Journal & Forum Focus

Crowninshield Winners Share Experiences: Preservation and the Public Realm 

12-09-2015 17:35

In recent years the concept of a public realm has grown to include building facades. Appreciation for the places, streets, and plazas created by the retention of historic structures has been reflected in revised city plans of the past decade. The language of the preservationists has finally become mainstream.

The preservation movement has given America a measure of its past. Buildings considered disposable 25 years ago would now automatically be recycled, as the preservation ethic in community building strengthens and grows.

At the same time the challenges of rehabilitation are ever more daunting and expensive. Building department ordinances are becoming perfectionists. The big ticket safety issues-asbestos and lead-based paint removal and compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act-can often erase the feasibility of rehabilitating an important historic structure or a neighborhood of historic homes and buildings.

As preservationists look ahead, we must find a way to provide funding and incentives to public and private redevelopment to overcome these increasing costs. The public realm concept and the preservation ethic will become intertwined.

Colorado preservationists are looking forward to the National Preservation Conference in October of 2003 because we have proud story to tell. In the past five years, the Colorado Historical Society has contributed more than $60 million to preservation projects in every county of the state.

These public realm leverage dollars come from a state tax on gaming proceeds from Cripple Creek, Blackhawk and Central City, three of our most interesting mining towns now changed to gambling meccas. Our capital city of Denver has enjoyed a downtown revitalization that has reclaimed more than 40 individual buildings and an entire neighborhood of turn-of-the-century warehouses now dubbed LoDo. Loft living in landmarks has become a solid part of Denver`s residential real estate market in 10 short years.

City leaders from all over the country have flocked to our historic doors to determine how we have accomplished so much in so little time.

Our mission involves recognition of architects who have made contributions to our public realm in the 141 years of Denver`s existence. It also requires direction to present-day architects to design new buildings and neighborhoods that complement our historic fabric. These connections to America`s roots make a significant difference in the way our citizens and visitors react to the Mile High City. We look forward to the National Trust`s continued involvement with our public realm issues and to your visit to Denver in 2003.

Publication Date: Fall 1999

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Author(s):Dana Crawford