We asked members of the Preservation50 team who attended the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s PastForward conference in Washington DC from November 3-6 2015 to write a blog about a session that they felt corresponded to the Mission & Goals of P50 or to our Leverage Lessons Learned topics.
The below is a blog by P50 Working Group member Raina Regan on session Creative Placesaving which took place on November 5, 2015 from 3:30-4:45pm ET.
Photo courtesy of author
Saving historic places can require a little non-conventional thinking for a successful result. Place saving requires broadening the message of preservation to new audiences which be accomplished in new and innovative ways. The Creative Placesaving Learning Lab provided four examples of out-of-the-box thinking to activate new spaces and audiences. These methods and concepts can be used to tell stories of the value of preserving historic places to a broad range of Americans. The presenters encouraged focusing on the idea and approach of these techniques, but scaling them for projects of all sizes.
Patrick Pluma, City Collaborative, Louisville
ReSurfaced is a project to weave dead spaces and the urban fabric together in Louisville, Kentucky. Local non-profit City Collaborative presents the ReSurfaced event as part of their efforts to creative positive impact in Louisville. With 25% of downtown Louisville covered in surface parking, City Collaborative looked to activate surface parking into urban spaces.
The first ReSurfaced popped up on Main Street in downtown Louisville in Fall 2014. Hidden behind the facades of blown out spaces intended for redevelopment pre-recession, City Collaborative worked with local community problem solvers to find ways to activate these underutilized spaces. After receiving a $40,000 grant, the lot turned into an outdoor entertainment space, beer garden, and café. With four weeks of community based pre-building, the resulting event was a six-week long initiative that created an active, desirable space. The activated space infused art with ballet and orchestra performances, yoga classes, and dramatic lighting.
In Summer 2015, ReSurfaced repurposed the Main Street location for “The Bourbon Edition,” with a flare for Kentucky Bourbon and rural materials. ReSurfaced has popped up for shorter stints as well. A three-day event at a parking lot underneath the expressway highlighted the Louisville waterfront. With great views of downtown, the three-day ReSurfaced in Fall 2015 allowed for community conversations on new spaces in the city.
The ReSurfaced concept can be utilized in a variety of ways related to the preservation movement. Vacant or underutilized historic buildings could be activated in a similar way to start discussions on their reuse.
YES on 8! (http://myunionterminal.com)
Jennifer Sandy, Grant Stevens, National Trust for Historic Preservation
In Fall 2014, the National Trust for Historic Preservation set up its first pop-up field office in a city they previously didn’t have a dedicated presence: Cincinnati, Ohio. The reason? The iconic Cincinnati Union Terminal regarded as one of the last great train stations built in the United States. Built in 1933, the station’s Art Deco architecture is a nationally known design. In 1986, a bond levy had converted the building into the Cincinnati Museum Center. By the early 2000s, the Terminal badly needed maintenance to retain its architectural beauty.
On the ballot in Hamilton County, Ohio in the November 2014 election, Issue 8 was a one-quarter of one percent sales tax increase to fund the restoration of Cincinnati Union Terminal. Combined with historic tax credits and private donations, the tax increase would raise up to $172 million for the $208 million dollar project.
The National Trust partnered with local advocacy efforts to organize Yes on 8!
While the National Trust focused on grassroots work, they partnered with the Museum’s political action committee that handled advertisements, endorsements, polling, and typical efforts of an issue campaign.
A pop-up action center in Fountain Square functioned as the main hub for advocacy efforts. The action center included “8 Reasons to Vote Yes on 8” on the wall, an instagram photography exhibit with photos from the Terminal, and plenty of free stuff – yard signs, buttons, and postcards. The action center became a place people wanted to visit, encouraging visitors to become active supporters of the campaign. A “wearable” Union Terminal was a popular conversation starter. Organizers wore a photograph cut out of the terminal and used it on the street to engage directly with the public.
The result? Issue 8 was passed successfully with 61% of the vote! The efforts to restore the Union Terminal are already underway. This placesaving initative illustrates creative ways grassroots advocacy can be tied with traditional issue oriented campaigns. The presenters included the following takeway points:
- Ask for free stuff: In the days before the vote, the campaign asked supportive coffee shops and food trucks to place stickers with Yes on 8! on their products.
- Create a tweetable moment: the action center included a photo booth that would encourage people to share the issue with their social networks.
- Lots and lots of free stuff: Give away buttons, postcards with talking points, yard signs as a way to further the campaign.
- Be aware of people’s time: The action center had to adjust its hours midway through its operation, after noticing trends of when people could or would visit.
- Be smart about programming: the instagram exhibit was a great way to get a diverse audience to the action center, as they spread the word to their own networks.
Save the Dome! (https://savingplaces.org/places/the-astrodome#.VkP182CJnww)
Jason Lloyd Clement and Beth Wiedower, National Trust for Historic Preservation
The Save the Dome! campaign was another site-driven issue campaign assisted by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Houston Astrodome was constructed in 1964 as the original home of the Houston Oilers (NFL) and Astros (MLB). After both the Oilers and Astros left the stadium, the stadium sat vacant, most recently serving refugees from Hurricane Katrina. The National Trust listed the site on the 2013 11 Most Endangered list and included it as a National Treasure.
The Harrison County Officials proposed a $217 million bond referendum on the November 2013 ballot to support the redevelopment of the Astrodome into the world’s largest multipurpose events space. The Save the Dome! coalition brought supporters of the Astrodome’s reuse together to strategize an advocacy campaign for the Dome.
The Dome Mobile was a 28’ truck with advertisements on both sides and a walk-in information center. The advocacy team traversed the city in the Dome Mobile increasing awareness and support for the referendum. Inside the Dome Mobile, the display included seats and turf from the dome alongside “8 Reasons to Vote Yes on the 8th Wonder of the World.”
Although the referendum was unsuccessful, the advocacy efforts continue. While demolition has been taken off the table, new proposals develop including trying to find an adequate funding structure. Recently, the Save the Dome! coalition hosted a 50th birthday party for the Astrodome at the Dome, which helped increase efforts and support for its reuse.
City of Night, Buffalo (http://www.elabuffalo.com)
City of Night is a creative placemaking arts festival in Buffalo hosted by elab: Emerging Leaders in the Arts Buffalo. City of Night combines Arts, History, Culture, and Sustainability through live performances including dance, theatre, and roving musicians, art installations, projections, history tours, with food and drinks! While planning the fourth staging of City of Night, the organizers decided it was time to reassess and transition the event into a new site.
After three successful years at the Grain Elevator, elab decided to relocate the event to the nearby Old First Ward neighborhood. By choosing the Old First Ward neighborhood, the elab could create new partnerships and create community change from within. By soliciting feedback from the neighborhood while planning the event, the event fundamentally had to change its concept to meet the constraints of the environment.
While some were disappointed with the change in venue, dedicated attendees recognized the impact of the event on the Old First Ward neighborhood. By assessing the sustainability of City of Night and strategically deciding to change the venue, elab recognized when it was time to transition to the event to continue their original goals.
Engaging new audiences in saving historic places may require innovative strategies to involve their participation in the placesaving process. ReSurfaced and City of Night activated underutilized and underappreciated spaces within historic spaces to engage the discussion of their value among the public. The issue campaigns Yes on 8! and Save the Dome! employed innovative advocacy campaigns to reach voters that may not identify as preservationists. Although these programs and campaigns are on a large scale, the concepts can be utilized on a small scale to save places.