by Michael R. Allen

In the weeks leading up to PastForward, the 2014 National Preservation Conference, we've asked thought leaders to set the stage for this year's four tracks. In this post, Michael Allen, the director of the Preservation Research Office, addresses rightsizing, legacy cities, and real estate tools - topics that will be discussed during learning labs at the conference track titled preservationVENTURE.  Michael will be a responder at the Thursday TrustLive. For more information on PastForward visit For more on preservationVENTURE check out the reading list.


A city-owned row of flats on North Market Street in St. Louis' St. Louis Place neighborhood, outside of historic district boundaries. | Credit: Michael R. Allen/Preservation Research Office

Today, as historic preservationists delve into the realities of older American cities that have faced population and building loss, we find ourselves reaching—and transcending—our field’s own limits. Nowhere is this more evident than in our engagement with the methodology of “rightsizing,” which has found preservation advocates making the case for embracing some demolition. The converse of this bold new look at urban preservation means developing serious conservation strategies for vernacular building stock that might not come in the tidiest, architectural history textbook–friendly form. If we embrace demolition to save cities, we can’t neglect the preservation work needed for what remains.

That’s where our left hand smacks into our right. The National Register of Historic Places, the backbone of American preservation practice for nearly 50 years, looks more like an impediment than a helpmate for the new era of legacy city preservation. In some cases, it actually makes preservation of places important to people more difficult.

The major problem for legacy cities is that National Register listing is predicated on a building or district’s “integrity,” a status based on having a majority of seven aspects based on historic appearance. For a city like Boston or Savannah, finding districts that look as they did in an earlier time is a lot easier than finding the same in East St. Louis or Detroit. Fractured neighborhoods don’t stand a chance of becoming historic districts, no matter how hard communities push. The National Register privileges appearance over community will, public commemoration and economic value.... Read More →


Attendees brainstorm on the communicating climate change to various audiences. | Credit: Jeana Wiser

Attendees at the 2014 National Council on Public History conference brainstorm on how best to communicate climate change to various audiences. | Credit: Jeana Wiser

Jeana Wiser, Anthony Veerkamp and James Lindberg also contributed to this article.

In current discussions on climate change there exists a disconnect between what scientists are predicting and what Americans actually believe will occur. While 97 percent of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening, public perception is a different story. A recent survey conducted by Yale and George Mason University shows that only 12 percent of Americans have an accurate understanding of the degree of scientific consensus on the issue.1

Studies have shown that people are most motivated to take action when they feel personally at risk. Thus, it’s especially troublesome that while two in three Americans believe that global warming is happening, only 38 percent believe that they will be personally harmed by global warming.2

The preservation field recognizes that climate change is a real threat to cultural resources around the country. But are preservationists really getting that message across? The public usually hears about melting glaciers and rising temperatures—not what climate change will mean for them personally or what it means for their favorite historic resource or treasured places.

This is where historians and preservationists come in. At this moment, we have the opportunity to leverage the expertise of preservation and history in the climate change conversation. Historians and preservationists have seen firsthand how climate change is affecting historic resources, and they have the ability to help those uncertain about global climate change understand its effect on the communities, places, and things they value most.... Read More →

PreservationBasics: Preservation Revolving Funds

Posted on: October 22nd, 2014 by Preservation Leadership Forum Staff No Comments


FJ_FALL_14_CoverSmallThis online guide is based on the National Trust publication, Preservation Revolving Funds, first published in 1993 and updated in 2006. Updated again for the recent Forum Journal "Get Real About Real Estate," this enhanced journal content provides a primer on preservation revolving funds and explains how preservation organizations can take advantage of this powerful tool for saving places. The guide, which is available for non-members and members, can be viewed below and downloaded from the Slideshare.

To access the entire Forum Journal you must be a member of Preservation Leadership Forum. In addition to the in-depth research provided in the quarterly journal, membership benefits also include discounts on conferences and training, analysis of current issues in Forum Focus, topic-specific Affinity Groups for exchange with other preservationists, and much more.

... Read More →