Substitute HB 5232 Bills to Weaken Historic Districts Not Necessary

A Main Street boardwalk view of Portland, Michigan.

Historic main street, boardwalk view, Portland, Michigan.

Earlier, PHAHPA posted an alert from the Michigan Historic Preservation Network, asking those of us who favor historic preservation in Michigan to write our representatives, voicing our opposition to House Bill 5232 and its senate twin SB 720.  The house bill had gone to the Local Governments Committee, where a substitute bill was adopted (on February 24th).  In the meantime, the representative who introduced the original bill, Afendoulis, wrote a substitute bill as well; it was not introduced to the Local Governments Committee before they went on spring break (which lasts until April 11th), however.  While some of the changes in the substitute bills make the proposed changes to the original historic district law (PA 169 of 1970) less severe, they would nevertheless weaken that law and are simply unnecessary.  Why this is even an issue is quite disturbing, and can be read about in Affluent Suburb Behind Push to Dismantle Michigan Historic Districts.

This is what our tax dollars are spent on in Lansing . . .to make our local communities less self-governing.

“The beauty of this system is that its a democracy,” Ligibel says. “Because it’s so local, each community decides for itself, and things change over time.”  Burg 3/9/16

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Winners of the 2016 Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation

Michilimackinac archaeology

Archaeological investigations continue at Michilimackinac.

In this time of attack on historic districts coming out of Lansing, it’s refreshing to read the recent announcement of the 2016 Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation winners.  The awards recognize the work of many persons, organizations, and companies that help to research, preserve, and rehabilitate the state’s irreplaceable cultural resources.  This year’s awards, which will be presented publicly in May (Historic Preservation Month) in Lansing, are as follows:

  • For the archaeological investigation of Fort Michilimackinac: Mackinac Island State Park Commission.
  • For the Indian Village Historic Streetlight Rehabilitation Project, Detroit: Indian Village Historical Collections, City of Detroit, Public Lighting Authority, DTE Energy, Offshore Spars, SS Stripping/CDS Performance Coatings, Corby Energy Services, and Consulting Engineering Associates, Inc.
  • For the rehabilitation of the St. Joseph North Pier Inner and Outer Lights: City of St. Joseph, Smay Trombley Architecture, Mihm Enterprises, the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center, the Lighthouse Forever Fund and the Citizens of St. Joseph.
  • For the rehabilitation of Dearborn City Hall Complex: City of Dearborn, Artspace Projects, Inc., Neumann/Smith Architecture, the Monahan Company, and the East Dearborn Downtown Development Authority.
  • For the rehabilitation of Fremont High School, Fremont: Home Renewal Systems LLC, Quinn Evans Architects, and Wolverine Building Group.
  • For the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School archaeological investigation: The Saginaw-Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan, Central Michigan University Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work, and the City of Mount Pleasant.

A list of the 2015 winners can be seen at Five major historic preservation projects honored with Governor’s Awards.

Primary Source: Indian Village, City of Detroit recognized for historic streetlight rehabilitation project.

In Detroit: “Injecting Old Spaces with New Ideas.” Love it!

Please enjoy the awesome 4+ minute video below that excites as it informs:  Vacant not Blighted: Revitalizing Detroit (by MHPN).  Detroit’s historic assets are being creatively reused, and many await a loving rebirth.  I’m not from Detroit, but almost . . . geographically.  We lived in the suburbs (a poor one, not the kind with paved streets and horses), and while my dad worked in Detroit, we otherwise avoided that city like the plague.  Probably the race riots of 1967 (which I lived through) had something to do with it.  No doubt my dad experienced a great deal of the tension building up to those riots where he worked (a large retail company’s warehouse).

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Problems with anti-historic district rhetoric

Below is a reprint of an article posted by Justin Davidson in the New York Magazine, Daily Intelligencer.  Please go to the article for further citations and the comments section.   I just want to add that a lot of the rhetoric revolves around ideas like:  wealthy people just want to keep their neighborhoods nice (who wouldn’t want that?) and high valued, but, we should be FOR higher density in our communities.  I support historic preservation for lots of reasons, and I’ve never been wealthy.  Historic preservation is about valuing quality materials and design, human scale and unique cultural environments.  It’s not about stopping progress or making our own history, but instead about keeping what’s of human value from our past.  I’m not for dense cookie-cutter communities made out of glorified cardboard, and I’m not for residents losing control of their communities in order that wealthy, powerful, corporate interests can do whatever they please.  I like what one commenter (JamieGlas) wrote:

“It depends.” This kind of nuance seems lost on the CityLab crowd that wants to impress you with Supreme Court decisions and grandiose “rhetorical blowtorches” that break down in almost any case study. There’s only a set of abstract pro-development rules. you kind of get that the authors position is a misguided political one not an architectural or social one. If quality is not a value we preserve, it won’t be a quality we value in future construction either.

The Atlantic’s Anti-Historic-District Argument Is Wrong and Extreme

Over at The Atlantic’s urbanist magazine-in-a-magazine, CityLab, writer Kriston Capps turns a rhetorical blowtorch on the concept of the historic district, particularly in residential neighborhoods. Family homes don’t warrant protection, he argues, because, well, they’re homes, and people should be able to do what they want with them. Whole clusters of homes are even less deserving of protection, he argues, in a multipronged, bipartisan case — none of which I buy.

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