What Local Historic District DOES NOT do: · Does not regulate paint colors · Does not require repairs or renovations to be made · Does not increase taxes beyond normal increases for the City or County · Does not prevent additions · Does not prevent non-contributing homes from being demolished · Does not require use of historic materials or historic building methods · Does not require that you open you home to the public · Does not restrict routine maintenance of properties
What Local Historic District DOES do: · Recognizes that Oakhurst has a distinctive historic character important to the overall character of the City of Decatur · Encourages creative and compatible development with historic areas · Requires that a Certificate of Appropriateness be obtained for exterior changes to contributing properties, demolition of buildings, and new construction. · Applies only to major renovations to the exterior of your home. Interior renovations are not restricted.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ponce de Leon Court

The historic Ponce de Leon Court neighborhood will be nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in recognition of its importance to the history of Decatur's development and its unique architectural and landscape features. The nomination is being prepared by Georgia State University graduate student Amanda Brown and the application is in the final stage of editing. Once completed, the nomination will be presented to the Historic Preservation Division's National Register Unit who will review the appication and submit it to the Georgia National Register Review Board for approval. For additional information on the National Register go to www.gashpo.org.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Decatur Historic Resource Survey Completed

In March 2009, the City of Decatur engaged the services of Keystone Preservation Associates and Morrison Design, LLC to conduct a city-wide comprehensive survey the City's historic resources. The survey has been completed and the findings will be presented to the public on Wednesday, November 4th at Decatur City Hall in the City Commission Meeting Room starting at 7:00 p.m.. The presentation will be made by the consultants who will provide information on the methodology used for the survey and the subsequent results. There will be an opportunity for the public to ask questions.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fighting Clouds in the Silver Lining

Background: Highlands is a neighborhood in Denver Colorado built from 1893 - 1920 by the working class that has endured decades of change and continues to be a vibrant melting pot.

The revitalization of Highlands since the 1990s has not been without a downsider for many Highlanders, especially those concerned with keeping intact the area's small-scale historic character and rich ethnic diversity. As gentrification has pushed up property values, lower-income residents are nudged out, creating what artist and entrepreneur Chandler Romeo calls a "loss of multip-culturalism" in the area.

Moreover, as the neighborhood has become more desirable, developers have cashed in on the decades-old zoning code and begun demolishing older homes once again, as they did in the 1960s, in order to build large multi-unit structures. Although Blueprint Denver - an expansive reworking of the city's zoning code adopted by the city council in 2002 - provided some guidance for preservation, its impact has been watered down by an economic recession and pro-development city politicians. Demolitions have been most prevalent in West Washington Park, Cherry Creek and West Highland, although nearly all of the city's older neighborhoods are feeling the effecs of this process. Between 2003 and the end of 2005, acording to a May 2006 report in the Rocky Mountain News, annual demolitions of single-family and duplex homes jumped 63 percent.

Efforts are underway to establish additional historic districts (beyond the city's current number of 44) to help curtail rampant demolition. Historic Denver and several neighborhood associations have played an important role in this struggle, and nascent anti-demolition groups continue to form. Realtors have led the call for action in many areas, recognizing that homes in the least-dense R1 zones typically sell for more, since homebuyers want to buy into stable neighborhoods with little threa of change in local character. A recent bright spot for proponents of downzoning in West Highland was the creation last year of the Wolff Place Historic District, an area several blocks west of Highlands Square, which will help protect 110 homes within its boundaries.

From American Bungalow Issue 56

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


"McMansion" has become increasingly common in our vocabulary as traditional homes consistent with the local architectural style are torn down and replaced by hotel-sized, out-of-place dwellings. The term McMansion, coined for comparisons to McDonald's restaurants for their ubiquity and mass-produced style, seems even more appropriate considering statistics cited in two major newspaper articles:
From the Los Angeles Times last July, "Leveling Restrictions on McMansions," by Nicholas Riccardi: "In 1973, the median size of a new American home was 1,525 square feet; in 2006, it was 2,248 square feet." And from 2002, the Washington Post's Shannon Brownlee wrote in "Portion Distortion—You Don't Know the Half of It:" "As early as 1972, for example, McDonald's introduced its large-size fries (large being a relative term, since at 3.5 ounces the '72 "large" was smaller than a medium serving today)... But price competition had grown so fierce that the only way to keep profits up was to offer bigger and bigger portions. By 1988, McDonald's had introduced a 32-ounce 'super size' soda and 'super size' fries."
Both articles point to the fact that McBigger isn't always McBetter.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Cents and Sensibilities

Older homes in designated historic districts are drawing attention like never before. Residents not only appreciate these mature neighborhoods and the qualities that make them special, they also appreciate their - well, appreciation.

To answer the often-asked question about the economic impact of designating residential districts as historic, the Los Angeles Conservancy reviewed several studies of historic districts in Texas, Indiana, Georgia and Virginia that found that neighborhoods bearing the "historic" designation appreciated faster over the two decades from the early 1970s to the early 1990s than similar neighborhoods that lacked the designation. Although the data are now somewhat dated, they end to confirm what other researchers have since found regarding the impact of historic designation on property values.

In Galveston, Texas, it was determined that "between 1975 and 1991, prices increased an average of 440% in the East End Historic District and by 165% in the Silk Stocking Historic District. By comparison, the prices in other neighborhoods over the same time period increased an average 80%."

In Elkhart, Ind., the rate of appreciation of properties in a particularly depressed historic residential area mirrored the rate of appreciation of the entire Elkhart market, and in Evansville, appreciation in one designated area outpaced that both in an adjacent undesignated area of the same vintage and residential style and in the overall Evansville market.

In Indianapolis, "property values in the local historic [residential] distric increased at a rate [that] exceeded the rate of both an adjacent, highly similar and unregulated neighborhood and the larger area of Indianapolis."

Other findings pointed to more consistent home ownership in Indianapolic historic districts. "In almost identical Indianapolis neighborhoods, the 1980 ratio of home-owners to renters was close: 34% of residents in Fletcher Place were owners and 29% in Holy Rosary - Danish Church. By 1990, while homeowners increased to 38% in Holy Rosary-Danish Church, the ratio of owners to renters had nearly doubled in Fletcher Place, rising to 66%.

In Rome, GA., the Athens-Clarke County Planning Department found that "between 1980 and 1996, designated properties increased in value 10% more than non-designted properties and locally designated properties increased in value almost 80% more than those only nationally designated."

Virginia cities confirmed the same trend. In Richmond, the value of properties within a designated district, Shockoe Slip, inceased at a steep rate compared to the rest of the city. Between 1980 and 1990, the total assessed valuation rose by 245%, from $23,135,886 to $56,761,000. Citywide, the increase was only 8.9%.

A study of Fredericksburg found that properties in the city's designted historic district gained appreciably more in value over the past 20 years than properties located elsewhere in the city. Between 1971 and 1990, residential properties in the historic district increased in value by an average 674%, while residential properties located elsewhere in the city increased in value by an average of 440%. In 1971, the average residentia property value was $17,920 in the historic district and $17,060 in the rest of the City. By 1990, average values had risen to $138,697 in the historic district and $87,011 outside the district.

It's little wonder that interest in historical districts is on the rise. Ken Bernstein, manager of the Los Angeles city planning department's Office of Historic Resources, told the Los Angeles Times recently that "the success of the Historic Preservation Overlay zones, or HPOZs, has caused an explosion of interest in the last decade." Until ten years ago, there were only eight zones in the city. Today there are 22, and designations are pending in another 16.

From American Bungalow , issue 57, spring 2008, page 125 - 126.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Wonderful Article on Miami

Here is our favorite quote from the article:
"With the pressures of development, however, we are not only losing a significant part of our cultural heritage, but as those families are forced to move out, those neighborhoods are irretrievably losing their distinctiveness. In the words of historian George, "[As] we continue to lose our older buildings we lose more of our collective historical memory, our sense of place, our awareness of the rich past of our community. And we lose a vital source of enrichment in our lives.""
Sounds very familiar.

Miami's Bungalows: Orphans of Perpetual Boom
by Jose Vasquez

"Ninety years ago Miami didn't exist," wrote T. D. Allman in his 1978 book Miami: City of the Future. "[Yet] the Miami experience has recapitulated the experience of America-the dream that if only people pushed far enough into the uncharted vastness, they could escape the cold and corruption of the past and build for themselves a sunny and virtuous new world."
Miami is one of America's youngest cities. It was incorporated in 1896 on a three-mile-wide strip of land along the Miami River between Biscayne Bay and the eastern edge of the Everglades. Serious development began a decade later, when the influx of new residents and the expansion of residential and commercial settlement prompted the dredging of the first canals to drain water from the swamps on the city's western edge. By the early teens the city was growing in earnest. By 1920 the population had quadrupled.
That growth spurt, however, was just the ignition phase of what came to be known as the Florida Boom. Over the next five years, the city ballooned to 10,000 acres as South Florida became the nation's winter playground and the scene of frenzied real estate speculation. "The great boom did not just happen," wrote historian Arva Moore Parks. "[It] was created by Miami's incomparable climate, an abundance of available land and an extremely clever group of promoters" who tried to impress investors with "promises of an earthly paradise." It was not long before South Florida fell prey to this speculative real estate market. By 1925 the skyrocketing cost of living had created a severe housing crisis. The only railroad operating in South Florida, overwhelmed by the sheer volume of construction materials being shipped to Miami, imposed a temporary shipment restriction that limited cargo to fuel and sustenance goods. The following year a powerful hurricane laid waste to vast expanses of Miami and hastened the collapse of the teetering real estate market.
Unsung Treasures
Although South Florida has seen several booms since that first one, a primary legacy of that era was a belt of bungalow communities stretching along South Florida's east coast from Broward County in the north, covering Miami-Dade County and reaching south almost to the Florida Keys. These Florida bungalows have proven to be extremely resilient. For nearly 80 years, they have endured the region's humid, unforgiving climate and the assaults of countless tropical storms and hurricanes.
When I moved to Miami nine years ago I was struck by these highly idiosyncratic homes. In all of metropolitan Miami I could not find two that were exactly alike. Promoted as a "home of marked singularity," the bungalow was distinguished not only by an efficient plan and the use of the latest modern conveniences, but also by a meticulous attention to construction details. Multiple roof profiles, wide overhangs and flexible and efficient interior organization were prominent architectural features. Designers lavished special attention on their deep front porches. The use of such architectural elements as wood sideboards, trim, cornices and columns succeeded in making the textural and sculptural qualities of the structures stand out in the bright tropical sunlight. Today, although many of Miami's historic bungalows remain intact- a conservative estimate would place the number between 800 and 1,500, although thousands more may stand concealed beneath heavily altered exteriors- they are being systematically demolished or left to decay in the superheated real estate market that has dominated Miami in recent years. The loss is most evident in the area once known as the Edgewater subdivision, an eclectic neighborhood of California and Spanish Mediterranean bungalows that was developed north of downtown during the 1920s. During the past five years I have witnessed many instances in which whole groups of bungalows have been demolished over a weekend. Of several hundred that stood in the area five years ago, only a few dozen remain.
Tropical Domestication
The earliest reference to the bungalow in Miami, specifically the "Belvedere" type (so named for the often cross-gabled upper story, which was opened up to serve as a sleeping porch during the warmest months), can be found in a series of articles published beginning in 1916 in Tropic Magazine. The author praised the airplane Belvedere bungalow as highly suitable and adaptable to Miami's subtropical conditions. By the early 1920s the homes figured prominently in local real estate ads. Leafing through newspapers, one could find countless advertisements and articles extolling their virtues and the advantages of homeownership. "The word, Home, would bring up the whole history of our lives," wrote J. S. Andrews. "We want that little word to stand as a symbol of creative life and constructive happiness. We want the word 'Belvedere' to mean a Florida home, a Miami home."
The new developments consisted mostly of bungalow types clad in different styles, ranging from the popular California Craftsman to Spanish Mediterranean and Mission. Many Miami bungalow designs were indigenous re-interpretations of the California bungalow. Many of those models were sold as kits by Sears, Roebuck and the Aladdin Company throughout South Florida. Others were adapted by individual builders from designs in popular plan books of the time.
Miami's bungalows were the first widely built residential structures to embrace South Florida's early vernacular building traditions, making use of passive climate-control solutions such as raised floors, projecting overhangs and cross ventilation and incorporating indigenous materials-pine for the buildings themselves and oolitic limestone or "coraline" for foundations, chimneys and porches. Windows and porches were often shielded by canvas awnings or wire-mesh screens, giving rise to what eventually would become known as the "Florida room" and an aesthetic centered on a new, healthy lifestyle in which subtropical conditions were domesticated.In many respects we can see in these bungalows the early introduction of concepts and spatial themes that were to be refined and developed in the Miami Modern (MiMo) tropical home. Yet Miami Bungalows are still the most undocumented, overlooked and unprotected historic building type in South Florida. As Miami Herald architecture critic Beth Dunlop has recognized, "They are the unsung treasure of Miami's architectural lexicon and probably the least understood."
Preservation Changes
Many American cities- and many more neighborhoods in cities and towns across the country- have placed individual homes and entire communities of older bungalows under the protection of historic preservation ordinances and zoning restrictions. Owners have been encouraged by state and local tax incentives to make long-term commitments to restore and maintain their properties. Several Florida cities, including Tampa, St. Petersburg and Lakeland, are home to bungalow preservation associations that have worked with municipal governments to create bungalow historic districts. Unfortunately, Miami has no bungalow preservation association, and no historic district protecting any of its heritage bungalows.
In the 1980s, Miami-Dade County and the city both created historic preservation boards, which have had successes in such places as South Beach and the Art Deco district. In the old bungalow communities, in the opinion of South Florida historian Dr. Paul George, "preservation efforts haven't been a priority for large numbers of new arrivals trying to "make it." [And] the rising value of land makes it difficult for investors and developers to justify preserving the old when they can make more money by building anew-and vertically- on a site."
Many bungalows in more affluent neighborhoods have been lovingly restored and maintained, but these are exceptional cases. The only bungalow that is officially protected, the J. Jacob Hubbard House, a perfect example of a California Belvedere bungalow located in the area now known as Little Havana, was bought by the state several years ago and is now in the care of the Dade Heritage Trust. The trust has made plans for the restoration of this historical structure with the aim of revitalizing the surrounding neighborhood. It is hoped that its rehabilitation will inspire a renewed sense of pride among the community and encourage residents to reclaim their historic housing legacy through the promotion of the collective benefits of home ownership.
Whether any of this will happen is very much an open question. The challenges facing the preservation of Miami's bungalow legacy are nowhere more evident than in Little Havana, an area surrounding Southwest Eighth Street that can claim to have the highest concentration of 1920s bungalows in the city.
The dynamic commercial strip along Eighth Street, more famously known as Calle Ocho, is the centerpiece of the city's most vibrant and ethnically diverse residential district. The annual Calle Ocho festival, held over two weekends in March, draws close to a million people from around the world. There is a tangible sense of pride among the residents, who represent the coalescence of two cultures-that of traditional middle America and that of mostly Spanish-speaking Cuban emigres who arrived in the 1960s and more recent arrivals from Central America. Hispanics comprise just over 90 percent of the population.
Within this culturally integrated population, however, there exist stark socioeconomic disparities between those who live south and north of Eighth Street. In the blocks south of Eighth, more than 45 percent of the homes are owner occupied; they are thoughtfully painted, their lawns and gardens perfectly kept. The average home is valued at $350,000.
Northeast of Eighth, in the area directly abutting downtown known historically as Riverside, a predominantly low-income population lives in a mixture of single-family homes, duplexes and apartment buildings where fewer than 10 percent of households are owners. In this once exclusive development there are increasing numbers of empty lots among new apartment towers. The modest bungalows that remain, some among the oldest in the city, have been converted into shops or partitioned into cramped rental units.
Of these two areas, Riverside has experienced the more aggressive redevelopment in the last three years and appears to be at far greater risk historically. As property values have risen, renters have been forced out in greater and greater numbers, confronting the city with a crisis in affordable housing.
Despite the sense of foreboding one can read into this situation, the neighborhood is still a lively and colorful community that hundreds of families call home. As I stroll along the tree-lined streets, I do not sense among the residents an overwhelming sense of nostalgia. In this place-this community-the idea of the bungalow as "all-American" home is still alive. It is not the mid-century home of perfect manicured lawns, sheltered back patios and hidden family life. This is a community in which the streetscape, as seen and heard from the ubiquitous bungalow porch, plays a significant role in domestic life.
With the pressures of development, however, we are not only losing a significant part of our cultural heritage, but as those families are forced to move out, those neighborhoods are irretrievably losing their distinctiveness. In the words of historian George, "[As] we continue to lose our older buildings we lose more of our collective historical memory, our sense of place, our awareness of the rich past of our community. And we lose a vital source of enrichment in our lives."
As a professor of architecture at Miami Dade College, I have made a practice of involving my students in architectural documentation projects that broaden the scope of their architectural education. Last year, the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, located in downtown Miami, accepted my proposal to organize a documentary exhibition on Miami's bungalows as a way of helping to increase public awareness and understanding of this endangered architectural legacy. The exhibition was well attended and drew gratifying coverage from the local press. My students and I were proud of this work. Whether the exhibition changed anything remains to be seen.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Rockaway Beach in Peril

Known as the poor man's Riviera, Rockaway Beach—a thin 7.5-mile snake of sand that hugs the coastline of Queens and Brooklyn in New York City—was once the summer home of the Vanderbilts, the Longfellows and the Astors. In the 1920s, many of these grand estates were divided and sold to developers, who built small communities in the popular architectural style of the time, and the bungalow colonies of Far Rockaway, N.Y., were born.
Now those beachfront bungalows and their public waterfronts are endangered: Only 100 of the 300 original houses remain. Dwarfed by massive new buildings—80 percent of all Queens nursing homes reside in Far Rockaway, and sprawling housing projects continue to grow, despite public easements—and unprotected by landmark status, the fate of these last bungalows is still up in the air. Though both national and New York City legislation mandates preservation and compatible development, the laws don't work unless someone enforces them.
Richard George in his bungalow, with high-rises in his back yard (Tim Davis)
That is precisely why Richard George, president of the Beachside Bungalow Preservation Association of Far Rockaway, Inc. (BBPA) is suing New York City's planning department and department of buildings, claiming they have violated their own initiatives. Founded 20 years ago, the association has tried a number of tactics to promote preservation. "Once I had to come and stand right in front of a bulldozer," George says. That was in 2001, and until last year, the city was still approving demolition permits. So George's group is taking the fight off the construction site and into the courtroom to protect the integrity of this humble neighborhood.
Rockaway Beach's six-mile boardwalk (the country's second longest, after Atlantic City, N.J.,) was once adorned with bathhouses and brothels, amusement parks and luxury hotels, which bloomed to life in the summer and were left sleeping for the winter. But during post-World War II expansion, Rockaway experienced the same decline that faced nearby places like the Bronx or Jersey City: Suburban settlements bypassed areas directly outside the metropolitan center, leaving boroughs subject to blight.
Their location, 20 miles from Manhattan, makes the bungalows particularly difficult to protect. Anthony C. Wood, longtime New York preservation activist, supports Richard George and his heroic efforts to save the houses. "These bungalows are really diamonds in the rough," he says. "Part of getting people on board is to get them to see the buildings, to fall in love with them. But the fact that they are so physically remote makes it hard. If they were in Manhattan, there'd be an army to protect them."
Dwarfed in Rockaway Beach (Tim Davis)
Many of the bungalows in this neighborhood—stretching from Beach 24th St. to Beach 27th St. between Seagirt Boulevand and the boardwalk in the Wavecrest area of Far Rockaway—were designed as soldier's housing in nearby Gravesend, then hauled by barge around the bay after World War I. The colony, built 80 years ago on the site of what was once the Dickerson estate, served as a humble summer retreat until its comeback in the mid-1980s.
The Beachside Bungalow Preservation Association was established in 1984, when year-round residents started to trickle into Rockaway Beach. But at the same time that the houses were at last owned instead of rented, and properly tended, development sprouted all around them. The 1918 deed from the four-acre Dickerson estate clearly affirms that an easement—guaranteeing public access to the waterfront—be preserved, but it wasn't until bungalows were demolished and easements violated that the association sprung into action.
In 1988, property owner Zion Halilli sold off his one-acre waterfront parcel to developers, who razed more than 50 bungalows on three city blocks. "They did it in the winter, when most of us weren't around," George says. "By the time we got back in the spring, they were gone." Yet the lot remained empty until 1998.
That's when the New York State Housing Trust Fund Corporation received an application from the Queens-based Margert Community Corporation to erect a multi-story apartment building there called Wavecrest II, despite the colony's easement. Magert originally promised garden apartments but later decided the building would contain 122 units of low-income housing.
"If public easements are ignored, it paves the way for the place to be chopped up, for further erosion," Wood says. "The sense of place is kind of what hangs in the balance."
Built on the site of 50 demolished bungalows, Wavecrest II looms above a modest bungalow. (Tim Davis)
Although the association challenged the application on the grounds that it would illegally usurp public access to the waterfront and violate federal and city laws, it was too late. Many Queens political heavy hitters, including former Borough President Claire Shulman and Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, supported the Wavecrest II application.
No one seemed concerned with the impact a six-story building would have on the modest neighborhood of one-and-a-half story, single-family homes—or with the legal clause that requires appropriate development. Neither did officials consider the easement, the right to ease, accommodation, and privilege to use land owned by another person. Both Margert and the city's planning department refused to comment for this story.
According to the Coastal Zone Management Act, which Congress passed in 1972, one section, Title 16, Chapter 33, Sec. 1452, states should give "full consideration to ecological, cultural, historic, and esthetic values as well as the needs for compatible economic development" and maintain "public access to the coasts for recreation purposes" while assisting "in the redevelopment of deteriorating urban waterfronts and ports, and sensitive preservation and restoration of historic, cultural, and esthetic coastal features."
Rockaway Beach juxtaposition (Tim Davis)
The New York City Waterfront Revitalization Program (WRP), adopted in 1982 and revised in 1999, is the city's own version of the Coastal Zone Management Act, intended to locally enforce the national act. In its own charter, the program states, "The guiding principal of the WRP is to maximize the benefits derived from economic development, environmental preservation, and public use of the waterfront, while minimizing the conflicts among these objectives. Through individual project review, the WRP aims to promote activities appropriate to various waterfront locations."
But if compatible development balanced with aesthetic values is the goal of the law, the reality is quite different. Today Wavecrest II hovers over the bungalows, violating their easements and spreading its pink brick wings across Beach 14th Street. Yet if the BBPA has its way, that will all change.
"They built private property on a public easement," George says. "The Coastal Zone Management Act says development has to be compatible with the character of the neighborhood, and they did not properly conduct a detailed environmental impact study. So the project is null and void." The association wants the city to restore the easements, perhaps even removing developments like Wavecrest, and protect the bungalows from future demolition. It hopes to require the city to review past applications and reverse inappropriate and illegal development.
"There are precedents for this sort of action," Wood says. He's referring to the "too-tall" tower at 108 East 96th Street that, due to a zoning error by the department of buildings, was forced to demolish its top 12 floors.
It could be months, even years, before the lawsuit is decided. But in the meantime, development on public easements and demolition of bungalows has temporarily come to a halt. Key city players are now behind his association, George says. "We even had the Astors come out here and give us support," he says. "Just like in the old days."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

What does listing on national historic register really mean?

It only took one bulldozer to quickly reduce a nearly 200-year-old house on a busy thoroughfare outside Albany, N.Y., to a pile of rubble this past May. Built in 1805, the timber-frame property had been one of the last remnants of the days when working farms, not shopping centers, strip malls, or housing developments, dominated the city's suburbs.
The John Wolf Kemp House was one of some 77,000 listings on the National Register of Historic Places, which the National Park Service—not the National Trust—administers. But that designation couldn't stop the building's owner from razing it to make way for a $12 million extended-stay hotel.
The belief that inclusion on the register renders historic structures or sites impervious to demolition or change is a widely-held misconception, as is the idea that owners are restricted from making alterations to properties once they're listed. Such myths can prevent the register from being as effective as it might be in bringing acclaim to historic properties and offering a measure of protection through mandated review to significant buildings and landscapes that stand in the way of federally funded projects, experts say.
"The register really exists to protect historic property owners from a government action that would impede or devalue the nature of their property," says New York State Parks Commissioner Bernadette Castro, who is a member of the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, which comments on projects that would affect National Register-listed properties. "But there is confusion, and it is unfortunate. If your property is on the National Register, it does not mean you cannot paint your house any color you'd like," Castro continued. "It does not in any way mean you can't sell your property or pass it on to your heirs. Some people even think they have to let the public into their house once it's on the register. We get that question all the time."
In fact, properties that are deemed eligible for the register but not formally listed on it still receive the same consideration from the Advisory Council. So in the case of nervous owners, anxiety is unwarranted: Whether they agree to have their property listed or not, the limited protection that the register affords will be extended to them.
In the past five years, 272 properties have been removed from the register, but not necessarily because they were demolished. The Park Service subtracts buildings from the register not only when they are destroyed but when they're dramatically changed or moved from their original location. However, since sites are only taken off if a change in their status is brought to the Park Service's attention, there are no exact figures of how many register properties are lost annually.
Authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Register exists to assist in public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect historic and archaeological resources, according to its official Web site. Properties listed on the register include districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that are significant in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, and culture.
To be eligible for the National Register, a structure or site should be associated with significant historic events or people or embody distinctive architectural characteristics of a specific period. Generally, the candidates must have achieved significance more than 50 years ago to be considered for inclusion. Historic buildings that have been relocated or reconstructed are generally not eligible.
Listing on the register gives a property special consideration by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation if it would be in any way affected by projects that the federal government—or those that would use federal funding or require federal licensing—undertake. The council does not have the power to prohibit changes to a register property, but it does ensure that historic values are considered in the federal planning process. In addition, the council can suggest mitigation, such as documentation of a building or landscaping around a new development, prior to changes taking place.
Being on the register also makes owners of commercial property—including rental property—eligible for federal tax credits and qualifies them for federal assistance funds for preservation, when money is available. Most states have set up a parallel state-level register to which properties listed on the National Register are automatically added and the same oversight standards apply.
When the National Register was created, the nation was booming, and Americans were paying little attention to the potential value of historic properties. Urban renewal—which usually meant widespread demolition—and the federal highway program were in full swing, so the National Historic Preservation Act and the subsequent creation of the National Register were significant breakthroughs for preservationists.
"It created a check-and-balance system that we never had in this country before," says William J. Murtagh, who was the register's inaugural "keeper," a position he held for 14 years. "Before, preservationists had no legal part of the planning dialogue. Now, preservation is no longer the purview of a volunteer constituency; it's a formal part of the planning process."
At its inception, says Murtagh, the register "was never considered to be anything but a restriction of what the federal government could do to us and our property using tax dollars. It has absolutely no restriction on what the private individual does with his property."
Listing a property on the National Register can provide owners with intangible benefits as well, supporters say. It draws attention to a site, giving it a cache that could increase its value, or, in the case of an historic hotel or landmark, attract more visitors and boost business.
"We think the recognition is the most important incentive" for owners to list their properties on the National Register, says Carol Shull, its current keeper. "The recognition of the register can bring people to a community because they know the buildings there have historical integrity," she says. "It also can change the way communities view themselves by getting local people to support and preserve significant structures and landscapes."
In the end, it is local officials, not the federal or state governments, that wield the real power over the future of historic buildings and sites through zoning laws and historic districts, which sometimes set up strict guidelines about what owners can and cannot do with their properties—from restrictions on everything from paint color to windows.
"You can put a building on the National Register one day and demolish it the next," says Frank Quinn, director of Historic Preservation for Heritage Ohio. "It's the local listing, through a review board or district commission, that really maintains the physical appearance of a building."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

You can be green and historic

Thom Day and Dennis Scott knew instantly that their Chicago bungalow was meant for them the moment crossed the threshold during a house tour last summer. They loved the vintage trim, wood floors, windows, and, in the attic, denim scraps used as insulation. Built in the 1920s, the house had been renovated as a "green bungalow" as part a project the city of Chicago launched last year.
Defined as cottages with a low-profile roof and single attic dormer, bungalows account for about a third of Chicago's single-family houses. Most of the city's 80,000 bungalows were constructed between 1900 and 1940.
"Energy efficiency wasn't around when the bungalows were built," says Charles Shanabruch, executive director of the Historic Chicago Bungalow Association. "This is a great idea. The project gives people new ideas, directions, products, and materials to work with."
Day and Scott paid $143,000 for the house and moved in last September. They live in Chicago's Marquette Park on the same block as three other previously vacant bungalows that were restored in a way that conserves energy and materials. The "green bungalow" project is part of Mayor Richard Daley's strategy to make the Windy City known as an environmentally friendly place.
"We wanted to take these historic buildings and develop the green technology without destroying historic details," explains David Reynolds, the deputy commissioner of the city's department of environment. To restore the bungalows, the city's housing and energy departments worked with the Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, the Southwest Home Equity Assurance Program, the Greater Southwest Development Corp., and the Historic Chicago Bungalow Association. "Each of the not-for-profits bring their own expertise and strengths," Reynolds says.
All of the four houses had been foreclosed about five years ago and were boarded up when they were chosen for the program in 2001. Each was to be developed according to a theme: handicapped-accessible, home office, young professional's home, and a classic bungalow.
"Everyone who worked on the project tried to ensure that materials were shipped from local suppliers to conserve resources," says Nate Kipnis, one of the project architects. "It's fine and dandy to say we're using marble, but if it's marble shipped from Italy, it kind of defeats the purpose of energy efficiency."
Denim scraps insulate the attic of Day and Scott's classic bungalow, the one model where all the interior trim was saved and reused. The original water boiler stayed in the basement as an example of how bungalows were heated, but the house now uses a tankless water heater. Popular in Europe, the small, energy-efficient unit heats water on demand in seconds, while older models keep water warm all day, driving up gas bills.
In the handicapped-accessible bungalow, workers widened all the doorways, added a wheelchair lift to the side of the house, and planted gardens at wheelchair level. A cork floor conserves heat during the winter, and old newspapers and phonebooks insulate the attic. The kitchen countertops are lowered to wheelchair height, but overhead cabinets make the kitchen useful to non-handicapped owners. Geothermal energy, a system that saves hundreds of dollars annually, heats and cools the house via three 150-feet deep holes in the back yard.
The office bungalow's floor tiles are made of recycled tires, and it's insulated with rock wool, popular in the early 20th-century. Kipnis prefers it to other types of insulation because it's non-flammable and non-allergenic. Radiant floor heat and slate flooring keep the house warm in the winter: It's heated by a system that works as both a furnace and hot-water heater, circulating hot water through coils while a fan blows warm air generated by the hot water. The system draws outside air for combustion and can hold up to 40 gallons of hot water.
The roof of the young professional's bungalow has air-flow panels to keep the deck from rotting and solar panels that provide electricity. Windows are made from aluminum, and the trim from recycled wood. A special heating system saves money, since more heat is provided incrementally as winter sets in.
When spring arrives, the bungalows' landscaped gardens will bloom in an environmentally friendly way. In each garden, French drains recycle rainwater to maintain hardy native plants. The city selected varieties that don't need as much water as other exotic species.
Perhaps the bungalows' biggest contribution to the environment is their impact on their immediate surroundings on Fairfield Street. After all, the four previously forgotten houses have been sold to new owners (the most expensive bungalow was the young professional's model, which sold for $155,000). And, the city says, the green bungalows have inspired others to undertake similar renovations on bungalows in the up-and-coming Chicago Lawn and Marquette Park neighborhoods.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Why would I want my property included in a historic district?

From Portland Oregon http://www.portlandlandmarks.org/historic_district.shtml

Local historic districts are created to protect historic areas or groups of historic structures against loss of historic fabric and features and to prevent insensitive changes. The properties within a historic district are a source of community pride. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has found that local historic districts provide the following benefits to their communities:
-local districts protect the investment of owners and residents of historic properties;
-local districts encourage better quality design;
-local districts help the environment by contributing to the revitalization of neighborhoods and conserving the resources they contain;
-historic districts provide a tangible link to the past, a way to bring meaning to history and people's lives;
-a local district can result in a positive economic impact;
-local districts enhance business recruitment potential;
-local districts provide social and psychological benefits.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Opinion from Eureka

Historic districts are good for Eureka
My Word by Karen Black
Article Launched: 10/29/2007 01:31:48 AM PDT

I have three houses in the proposed Clark Historic District. I also have one in a newly designated Berkeley historic neighborhood. Now I live in a Victorian just outside of a historic district in Vallejo.

I understand that the freedom to change a door or window is a big deal, but personally I think it should be a design crime to replace an old Victorian door with something new from Home Depot. Sliding Vinyl windows look bad in the front of Victorian houses. Let's keep Craftsman homes looking like Craftsmans and let Art Deco buildings stay Art Deco. Character equals value.
Here are the only two unpleasant stories that I have heard of, and I have been around awhile:
1. Someone wanted to remove an extra door in front of their house. So they remodeled inside and left a false door on the outside. It looked a little silly, but it satisfied everyone. I don't think houses have to stay exactly the same, but the basic “look” must stay the same.
2. Someone went ahead and began a cement pillar and chainlink fence around their Victorian. The Historic Committee gave them the choice of three acceptable fencing options, and after about three years of messing around doing what he wanted to do, the fellow finally did one of the things he was asked to. It looked great, and he wished he'd listened sooner.

Here is what I think people are afraid of: Historic building police. Design committees can sometimes be overly brainy and insensitive. Right now there is a building code. Is that an infringement on property rights? Yes, but we give a little for the greater good.
I'd like to see historic homes kept as genuine looking as possible, but the council members have to not be too persnickety. Just about everyone has gone by a beautiful old house and said, “Oh, that it is so sad. Look what they did to that house! It used to be so great!”
The only problem that I see with having to comply with neighborhood historic building codes is the cost. New windows are cheaper and more energy efficient than the old wood ones. I put them (shame on me!) in my first renovation because it was all I could afford.
However, I once saw a guy on the television show called “This Old House.” His business was to bring his truck/mobile workshop to your home. He would take out your old windows and make them double-paned and then reinstall them! It was cheaper than buying a new vinyl one, and everyone was happy.
Change is hard to take, but it usually turns out for the best. Perhaps new guidelines will lead to more and different business opportunities for the craftspeople around town.
Eureka is lucky to have some of the best tradespeople in America. Establishments of historic districts are good for Eureka and her economy.
Karen Black owns several houses in historic neighborhoods. She now in a Victorian just outside of a historic district in Vallejo, Calif.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Does Historic District Zoning Negatively Impact Property Values?

"The marketplace increasingly recognizes both the short and long term economic value of historic properties. Just compare almost any neighborhood or commercial area that has embraced historic preservation with those that have not. Historic preservation and economic development represent an effective partnership - as a growing number of communities and businesses have come to realize."

Full Article:

Does historic district zoning negatively impact property values?

This was the question that the Denver Colorado City Council sought to answer in 1988 when it designed the Lower Downtown Historic District.

More than 75 percent of the areas property owners initially opposed the historic district. They feared a loss of property rights and a further erosion of property values. Today, the opponents are believers in the value of historic district zoning

Before designation, the once thriving commercial area on the edge of downtown had a vacancy rate of 40 percent - and 30 percent of the properties had been foreclosed. Blighted conditions triggered precipitous decreases in property values.

By the summer of 1995, however, vacancy rates in Lower Downtown had dropped to less than 10 percent. The last foreclosed property was sold to a private developer in 1993. The area is now home to 55 restaurants and clubs, 30 art galleries, and 650 new residential units. property values have doubled and private investment, not including Coors Field - the new home of the Colorado Rockies baseball team - has exceeded $75 million.

So how did historic district zoning contribute to Lower Downtown's success? The answer is simple: scarcity and certainty create value. Small businesses and investors were lured into the area by its charm and historic character - and by a knowledge that it would remain that way. In other words, historic district zoning gave investors assurance that their investments in rehabilitated, turn of the century buildings would not be undermined by billboards, parking lots, or other insensitive developments on nearly properties. The city's $2 million investment in streetscape improvements also reinforced private investment in Lower Downtown.

Historic district zoning is frequently controversial, but it almost always has a beneficial effect on property values, commercial revitalization, business investments and increased tourism. This was the finding of a wide ranging 1995 study by the Preservation Alliance of Virginia. According to David J. Brown, Executive Director of the Alliance, "Historic preservation is economic growth and the reality is that preservation means dollars in the pockets of Virginians."

The Virginia study addressed four aspects of preservation's economic impact: tourism, job creation, property values and downtown revitalization. On tourism, the study found that historic preservation visitors are a major portion of the state's $9 billion a year tourism industry. Seven out of ten first time visitors come to the state to visit historic sites, museums, and battlefields. The study also found that history minded visitors stay longer and spend more; two and a half times more than the amount spent by other visitors.

The second issue the commission looked at was job creation that resulted from the rehabilitation of some 900 historic buildings in Virginia pursuant to the federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit. This program created over 6,600 jobs in the construction trades and over 6,000 jobs in spin off areas. Construction related historic preservation activity yielded a total of $270 million in household income in Virginia.

The study also examined the impact of Virginia's Main Street Program. Since its inception in 1985, the 20 small communities in the Main Street Program - whose goal is downtown revitalization within the context of historic preservation - have netted more than 1,100 new businesses, spurred the rehabilitation of 1,622 historic buildings and resulted in a net gain of 2, 170 new jobs.

As for property values, the study found that property values appreciated more in historic districts than in other areas of the cities. These results were similar to those of a separate independent study conducted by the Government Finance Officers Association's research center which found that property values in historic districts in Galveston Texas and Fredericksburg Virginia grew 1.5 to 3 times faster than comparable areas not in historic districts.

The marketplace increasingly recognizes both the short and long term economic value of historic properties. Just compare almost any neighborhood or commercial area that has embraced historic preservation with those that have not. Historic preservation and economic development represent an effective partnership - as a growing number of communities and businesses have come to realize.

The Value of History

A sense of place provides us with a canvas in which to tell a story. Nostalgia is one of the top reasons we visit places. Often, when visiting such places we spend money. I recently received an e-mail containing the attached photograph.

Four friends meet for lunch at the Universal Joint on a regular basis. These friends do not live in Decatur, but other parts in the state. They choose our warm neighborhood because it is where they grew up. They visit and talk. Their conversations are likely to include catching up on current events and reminiscing about their life in Oakhurst.

Without the sense of place and tie to the past they would likely not be drawn here. The ability to see a glimpse of what a building or group of buildings looked like in the past draws on nostalgia, a very powerful thing. If the neighborhood does not retain that sense of place, that link to the past, then it is no longer a nostalgic destination.

Sure, this trip down memory lane only brings in $40-50/month or so for one of our local eating establishments. But, this is not the only story we have heard about other former residence returning to the home they grew up in. We have also heard from visitors that spend time in Oakhurst because it reminds them of the place they grew up and because that place no longer exists for nostalgic purposes.

Local historic districts help keep this link to the past, which is valuable aesthetically and economically. The purpose of such a local district zoning is not to freeze a place in time, but to make sure new development does not erase the past.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Oakhurst Historic District Nomination Form

Decatur Historic District Nomination Form

Short Name of District: Oakhurst Historic District


Describe in general terms the location of the district within the City
The proposed Oakhurst District is located in the southwest quadrant of the City of Decatur. The District is bound by West College Avenue to the north; Winter Avenue, Johnston Place, Park Place, and portion of East Lake to the west; the Oakhurst commercial District to the south; and Mead Road to the east. The boundary streets are College Avenue to the north, Leyden Street to the south, Mead Road to the east, and East Lake Drive to the west.

List streets and features within and around the district.
In addition to West College Avenue, Winter Avenue, Johnston Place, Park Place, East Lake Drive and Mead Road, the proposed district also includes Hood Circle, Third Avenue, Cambridge Avenue, Feld Avenue and Leyden Street. The district includes Oakhurst Elementary, Oakhurst Business District, West College Businesses, Bell South Property, Mead Road Businesses, Oakhurst Baptist Church, Thankful Baptist Church, East Lake Marta property and a cohesive development of bungalow style homes. The district is located between the MAK Local Historic District and the Historic Scottish Rite and the proposed Kirkwood Historic District.

Reasons for requesting historic district designation.
Check all that apply and explain.
___ Recognition
_x_ Protection
The entire Oakhurst neighborhood is under extreme redevelopment pressure. The proposed district is in danger of losing important historic structures and overall character.
___Tax Incentives
___Grant Assistance

Nomination prepared by:
Brendan Breault, Greg Levine, Joy Provost

Title and Organization, if any:
Oakhurst Historic Preservation Group

Mailing Address:
228 Third Avenue, Decatur, GA 30030

Please explain your relationship to or interest in the district:
Citizens of City of Decatur and residents of the Oakhurst neighborhood.

Signature: Date:

Decatur Historic District Nomination Form

I. Name of the District
Oakhurst Historic District includes portions of the Town of Oakhurst developed by the East Lake Land Development Co., in 1910 and 1924, A.R. and L.M. Morris development in 1915, Feld Realty Company development in 1910 and John Ridley development in 1910. It is included in the large annexed area of Decatur between 1914-1916. The very northern section of Mead Road was annexed by the City of Decatur in 1907.

II. Description of District

a. Narrative Description
Oakhurst Historic District’s development was tied to the expansion of the railroad. One of the early stations built was Meade Station, which is thought to have been located at what is now Mead Road. John F. Ridley sold off portions of his property near the station for the development of the town of Oakhurst. Oakhurst was incorporated in 1910. The 1910 residential directory gave addresses in Oakhurst along Park Place, Viola (Madison), College Avenue, Meades Road (Mead Road) and Winter Avenue. Oakhurst was annexed into the City of Decatur in 1915.

Continued development was linked to the addition of trolley lines. The North Decatur line was built in 1892 running north of Candler Park, down to DeKalb Avenue and then following East Lake Drive South. It then crossed the South Decatur line at the intersection of Oakview Road, East Lake Drive and Mead Road.

The development of Oakhurst was developed closely to the expansion of Decatur and enjoys some of the same character as the oldest development of the City. Oakhurst Historic District housing is predominately in the bungalow style with Craftsman details. The majority of the homes are of wood construction, but there are many brick or stone homes. They are further distinguished by the simplicity of detailing and large front porches.

Oakhurst Baptist Church was the first church of any denomination in the City of Oakhurst.

Nestled within the Oakhurst Neighborhood is Oakhurst Elementary School, which recently underwent a nicely crafted and historically sensitive renovation, adding charm to the neighborhood. Having a school within the neighborhood creates a sense of community and enhances the small town feel of the district.

The area borders Oakhurst Park, maintained by Decatur Parks and Recreation Department. It serves as a recreational area for children, pets and various athletic teams and groups.

b. Condition
i. Very Good .05%
ii. Good .25%
iii. Average 64%
iv. Fair .05%
v. Poor .006%
vi. Ruinous .003%
c. Number of Properties
There are 317 properties in the Oakhurst Historic District.

d. Instrusions and Non-Historic Properties
There are several non-historic properties within the Oakhurst Historic District, although the majority of the homes would be considered contributing structures (over 50 years old). Over time, the original structures are being torn down and replaced with larger, more modern homes. However, many homeowners have built additions and managed to keep within the style of the neighborhood.

e. Boundaries of the District
The District is bound by West College Avenue to the north; Winter Avenue, Johnston Place, Park Place, and portion of East Lake to the west; the Oakhurst commercial District to the south; and Mead Road to the east. The boundary streets are College Avenue to the north, Leyden Street to the south, Mead Road to the east, and East Lake Drive to the west. This area comprises the most intact pre-war constructed homes in the City of Decatur. Another demarcation is its proximity to the former Scottish Rite Hospital currently listed in the National Register and the MAK Historic District.

f. Photographs
Photographs are included as an appendix to the application.

g. Maps
Maps of the district are attached.

III. History
a. Summary of Historic Facts
· The area is comprised of four subdivision built in the residential construction boom that preceded the expansion of rail stops and trolley lines. The developers include East Lake Land Development, AR & LM Morris, Feld Realty Company and John Ridley. Development occurred between 1910-1915 with additional development in 1924.
· The intersection of present day Mead Road with the railroad was the location of one of three Southern Railroad line tops in Decatur called Meade Station.
· Includes Hood Circle, one of the few streets with what appear to be World War II era houses: frame minimal Cape Cod “workers” houses.
· East Lake Drive was one of three automobile routes from Decatur to Atlanta by the mid-1920s.
· Original platted history.

b. Historical Narrative

In 1892 the Atlanta City Street Railway Company built the North Decatur line. Called “north” because it ran north of the South Decatur line, the second tram route ran through Candler Park down to DeKalb Avenue and then turned, following East Lake Drive south, east and south again into East Lake. This line crossed the South Decatur line at the intersection of Oakview, East Lake and Mead Road at what is now the “commercial “center in western South Decatur.

John F. Ridley purchased the Eugenius N. Meade property in 1907 and worked a small farm on the site when he first moved there. Ridley’s economic prosperity, however, was based in merchandise and real estate, not crops. In 1910, most of his sizeable estate was absorbed into the Town of Oakhurst, and he eventually sold off portions of his property. Some became the site for the Oakhurst School, more of it the basis for a subdivision along Mead Road.

In 1910 the Georgia Legislature approved the incorporation of the Town of Oakhurst, from all appearances the smallest of the settlement in the area of East Atlanta. The population for Oakhurst was a mere 100 people. The original residential directory gave addresses in Oakhurst along Park Place, Viola (Madison), College Avenue, Meades Road (Mead Road), and Winter Avenue, all located south of the railroad tracts in the original Oakhurst Subdivion.

Very little is known about the origins of Oakhurst or its brief life as a separate municipality, since the City Hall/Schoolhouse burned (and the records with it) a few weeks after the annexation to Decatur in 1915.

Most of Oakhurst was settled after it was annexed to Decatur, but he setting was already in place as far as relationship of lots to the street, lots to other lots and the lot size of the overall neighborhood. It is a pattern of down-scaled houses, overwhelmingly pre-World War II, overwhelmingly bungalow and sizable number are brick.

IV. Significance
a. Geography
Oakhurst is a neighborhood that many consider within walking distance to the downtown business and shopping district in the City of Decatur. It has a very popular commercial district with several restaurants, art galleries and other retail business. It contains a well used dog park, recreation park, and Boys and Girls Club. The Oakhurst area attracts many visitors from other parts of Decatur, Atlanta, and metro-Atlanta locations.

Oakhurst has many hardwood trees that pre-date back the origins of the neighborhood. There is a neighborhood arboretum within the Oakhurst community and many of the trees in the arboretum are located within the boundaries of the proposed district.

Oakhurst is an excellent example of the rapid suburban expansion that the electric streetcar service permitted.

b. Architecture
The predominant architectural style of Oakhurst is the distinctive bungalow with varying amounts of Craftsman detailing. Excellent examples of Queen Annes, Pyrmidal Cottages, Gabled Ells, Georgia Revival, Minimal Traditional, American Foursquare and Temple Forms exist.

V. Sources of Information
City of Decatur (decaturga.com)- zoning and land use maps
Dekalb County web site (dklbweb.dekalbga.org/TaxAssessor/)- property information
Atlanta History Center (Dorrie)
Dekalb Historical Society
Decatur Library
Decatur Preservation Alliance (decaturpreservationalliance.org and and Decatur Historic Preservation Resource Manual and Design Supplement to the Decatur Historic Preservation Resource Manual)
McAlester, Virginia & Lee. A Field Guide to American Houses, Alfred A Knopf, 1986
The Story of Decatur, 1823-99, by Caroline McKinney Clarke
Architectural History of Decatur Neighborhoods
City of Decatur Historic Resources Survey prepared by Catherine Wilson-Martin and Dr. Darlene R. Roth

Next Steps:
Community Education

A meeting was held in October of 2005 to discuss the nature of a local historic district. An invitation to the meeting was delivered via handbill to all residents of the Oakhurst Community one week before the meeting.

Discussion regarding a local historic district continued via in-fill meetings held by various member of the Oakhurst Neighborhood Association.

There was strong support of a local historic district within the district described here. Members of the community began the research to pursue a local historic district.

Monday, April 6, 2009

This Old Wasteful House - read all the way through

This Old Wasteful House



NEVER before has America had so many compelling reasons to preserve the homes in its older residential neighborhoods. We need to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions. We want to create jobs, and revitalize the neighborhoods where millions of Americans live. All of this could be accomplished by making older homes more energy-efficient.

Let’s begin with energy consumption and emissions. Forty-three percent of America’s carbon emissions come from heating, cooling, lighting and operating our buildings. Older homes are particularly wasteful: Homes built in 1939 or before use around 50 percent more energy per square foot than those constructed in 2000. But with significant improvements and retrofits, these structures could perform on a par with newer homes.

So how does a homeowner go green? The first step is an energy audit by a local utility. These audits can be obtained in many communities at little or no cost. They help identify the sources of heat loss, allowing homeowners to make informed decisions about how to reduce energy use in the most cost-effective way.

Homeowners are likely to discover that much of the energy loss comes down to a lack of insulation in attics and basements. Sealing other air leaks also helps. This can be done by installing dryer vent seals that open only when the dryer is in use, as well as fireplace draft stoppers and attic door covers.

Experience has shown that virtually any older or historic house can become more energy-efficient without losing its character. Restoring the original features of older houses — like porches, awnings and shutters — can maximize shade and insulation. Older wooden windows perform very well when properly weatherized — this includes caulking, insulation and weather stripping — and assisted by the addition of a good storm window. Weatherizing leaky windows in most cases is much cheaper than installing replacements.

The good news is that the administration is taking steps to help homes save energy with a program that will invest almost $8 billion in state and local weatherization and energy-efficiency efforts. The Weatherization Assistance Program, aimed at low-income families, will allow an average investment of up to $6,500 per home in energy efficiency upgrades.

My organization is also working with the Natural Resources Defense Council and members of Congress on legislation to help cover the costs of making all older homes more energy-efficient. Under this proposal, a homeowner would receive a $3,000 incentive for improving energy efficiency by 20 percent, and $150 for each additional percentage point of energy savings. If 300,000 homes could be retrofitted each year, we estimate that after 10 years we could see a reduction of 65 million metric tons of carbon emitted into the atmosphere, and the equivalent of 200 million barrels of oil saved.

The labor-intensive process of rehabilitating older buildings would also create jobs, and this labor can’t be shipped overseas. The wages would stay in the community, supporting local businesses and significantly increasing household incomes — just the kind of boost the American economy needs right now.

Before demolishing an old building to make way for a new one, consider the amount of energy required to manufacture, transport and assemble the pieces of that building. With the destruction of the building, all that energy is utterly wasted. Then think about the additional energy required for the demolition itself, not to mention for new construction. Preserving a building is the ultimate act of recycling.

Richard Moe is the president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

City of Decatur follows through on promise for historic survey

Approved funding for the historic survey.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Historic Resource Survey Request For Proposal


The City of Decatur was incorporated in 1823 and has retained the small town character of its roots. It is a diverse city of roughly 18,000 residents covering 4.2 square miles and serves as the county seat for DeKalb County. It has the highest population density among all cities in the state of Georgia. The land use is characterized by a vibrant, mixed-use town center, a smaller, neighborhood business district on its south side, and a commercial corridor running through the middle of the city. All three commercial areas are surrounded by traditional single-family neighborhoods.
Decatur has a wealth of historic resources dating from the early 1800’s through the mid-century including many outstanding examples of post-modern architecture. Currently, the city has four local historic districts: the McDonough –Adams-King, Clairemont Corridor, Ponce de Leon Court, and Old Decatur. Additionally, Decatur has two National Register Districts, Winnona Park and South Candler Street. There are also twelve buildings/sites listed individually on the National Register.
In 1992, a historic resource survey was conducted resulting in the creation of the Decatur Historic Preservation Resource Manual. While this manual is still utilized, it did not address all of the historic resources in the city and a number of properties have now become eligible for the National Register.
In 2008, the city commission recognized the need for an updated historic resource survey and authorized the city to obtain bids for such a survey. The goal of this project is to identify historic resources in the City of Decatur that have not already been placed on the National Register or not protected under local historic district regulations. The updated survey information will be used to identify individual buildings and districts for possible listing in the National Register or Georgia Register of Historic Places, support local designations of buildings and districts, expedite environmental review by governmental agencies, aid preservation and land-use planning, promote research of the city’s history and architecture, and increase awareness of, and interest in Decatur’s historic buildings.
The proposal must be submitted by 4:00 p.m. on Friday, January 30 2009. Any proposals submitted after this date will not be accepted.
Proposals must be submitted in Microsoft Word and a PDF file on a compact disc with five (5) hard copies to:
City Manager
City of Decatur
Attn: Historic Resource Survey
P.O.B 220
509 N, McDonough Street
Decatur, GA 30030
It is anticipated that the work will be awarded within two weeks (20 days) of the due date.
The proposal will be evaluated by the following guidelines:
-Completeness and clarity of the proposal.
-Firm experience, members of the project team and their qualifications.
-Previous historic resource survey experience.
-Technical approach to the project scope.
-Onsite interviews of finalists.
-Ability to meet schedule.
Questions regarding this RFP should be directed to:
Regina Brewer, Preservation Planner
(404) 371-8336
This Request for Proposal (RFP) does not commit the City to award a contract, to pay any costs incurred in the preparation of a response to this request, or to procure or contract for services or supplies.