Local Preservation – all talk, no money

The old Ice House on East Market Street was demolished yesterday.

Rather than rail against the city’s inept efforts to save it, I think it is time that the responsibility for the loss of that historic building – and the future loss of others like it – be shifted to where it belongs: Greensboro’s preservation community.  I include myself in that community.

Local preservationists continuously operate in a reactive mode.  Every time some historic structure is slated for relocation or demolition, we gnash our teeth, curse at the owners, and talk among ourselves as to what dumbasses people are for not recognizing the value of our historic architecture.

Well, we preservationists are the real dumbasses.

The city is not going to change how it regards old buildings – that should have become evident to everyone by now.  Developers aren’t going to wake up tomorrow and see the light of preservation – if an old building is in the way of someone’s new dream, it doesn’t stand a chance.  It is time that I, and others with my passion for preservation, wake up and smell the money.

As it is now, Greensboro’s preservationists are little more than a bothersome fly buzzing around the head of local development.  We get swatted away easily because we have absolutely no clout.  In other words, we don’t have the money to put where our mouths usually are.

We raise holy-hell against impending demolitions only after the bulldozers have been contracted for.  That has to change or we need to shut the hell up.

Greensboro’s preservation community needs a million dollars in the bank.  Only with such a bankroll can we do what we say others should be doing.  It is time to amass a revolving fund of that size so we can stop criticizing and start preserving.

Preservation, adaptive re-use and other rehabilitation of old buildings is expensive.  In addition, our beliefs for what we think others should be doing requires a level of creativity and clarity of vison that few of our city leaders, and even fewer local developers, have.

I, for one, am sick and tired of fighting battles for any more Ice Houses without the proper ammunition in my arsenal and the only live ammunition that counts in the skirmishes of development is money – lots of money.

So the goal is $1 million, I’ll pledge $1,000 right here, right now if we can get this thing going.  Any one else want to put their money where their mouth is?

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  1. Wayne R.
    Posted December 22, 2006 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Well, David, I’ll be interested to see the response to this admirable goal.

    I’m guessing you know that if you have a non-profit hold the funds, and it’s a 501 (c) (3), the funds are tax deductible.

    I would assume that PGI would help with that, until you reach Critical Mass, and you have to form your own non-profit to administer this “Revolving Fund” which PGI already has in place, btw. Aycock Neighborhood has used this fund before, during the Charette for the Neighborhood Plan. Maybe you could ask them to keep a sub-account for your efforts.

    Good Luck. Wish I lived in Greensboro, and could help. No, I don’t really.

  2. Posted December 22, 2006 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    David: As Wayne points out, PGI has had a revolving fund for a long time. The Architectural Salvage of Greensboro also gives small-scale grants for smaller projects.

    But I know you know this. Are you proposing increasing the PGI fund or starting something new?

  3. Posted December 22, 2006 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Might I also add that I think some of your comments are rather insulting to long-time Greensboro preservationists who have celebrated victories as well as suffered defeats — and put up a lot of money –over many years, long before we newcomers arrived.

  4. Posted December 22, 2006 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Then I have insulted myself along with the rest.

    I know about PGI’s revolving fund. It has done some great things but it is not enough, apparently.

    We need big-time money to buy properties like the Ice House. And yes, I’ll give my $1000k to PGI’s fund… I’m just trying to get something jump-started.

  5. Posted December 24, 2006 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    I don’t think any old buildings should be torn down unless the windows have been repaired. Agreed?

  6. Posted December 24, 2006 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    Here’s two links to my blog that might interest you and other preservationists.
    North Carolina Railroad Attacks Historic Greensboro Building and Goodbye Ice House, Hello New Beer.

  7. Brian Clarke
    Posted December 28, 2006 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    I agree wholeheartedly. In order for historic preservationists to have any clout in this city — or any other city for that matter — we need to have the ability to go buy endangered properties and resell them with protective covenants in place. This is the purpose of the PGI Revolving Fund. However, as you point out the $$ in that fund is woefully inadequate to do this job. $1 Million in the PGI revolving fund would do wonders for historic preservation in this city. Only with that kind of money can we save the next historically significant building — potentially one or more on South Elm — from destruction. One can only hope and pray that the loss of the Emma Gray House (aka the Arbor House) and the Colonial Ice House fall (to name but a few) will stir folks to put up some cash. I am with you on the pledge.

  8. Posted August 20, 2007 at 11:11 am | Permalink