PRESERVATION TEXAS CALLS ATTENTION TO ENDANGERED URBAN HISTORIC DISTRICTS
DISTRICTS IN DALLAS, AUSTIN AND HOUSTON SPOTLIGHTED
DALLAS, TEXAS — Preservation Texas will name Urban National Register Historic Districts to its Texas’ Most Endangered Places list on Wednesday in Dallas, Texas. This is a direct result of the recent demolition of five historic structures in the Dallas Downtown Historic District, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006. This special endangered listing comes at a time when increasing development pressures are resulting in increasing losses of historic places in cities across the state.
The announcement will be made at a press conference in Dallas on Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 1:00 pm CST in the 1600 block of Elm Street.
Examples of nationally-significant urban neighborhoods on the National Register of Historic Places facing irreparable losses and alterations include the Dallas Downtown Historic District, Houston’s Fourth Ward Historic District, and the Congress Avenue Historic District and Sixth Street Historic District in Austin.
“Inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places does not protect a property from demolition,” said Charlene Orr, President of Preservation Texas. “To prevent the ongoing destruction of our Texas heritage, cities like Dallas must strengthen and expand local historic preservation ordinances and fully fund and staff the preservation programs needed to support them.”
While National Register designations enable historic properties to qualify for valuable incentives, such as the new state historic preservation tax credit which goes into effect on January 1, 2015, federal recognition does not prevent their demolition. Local zoning protection is the only way to create a process for community input before buildings are lost forever.
“It’s time for cities to step up their protection for historic places,” said Evan Thompson, executive director of Preservation Texas. “Galveston and San Antonio took a long-range view decades ago by planning for preservation. They are finding that the economic benefits of meaningful local zoning protection for historic districts far exceed whatever short-term benefits might have been gained by bulldozing and redeveloping those areas with bland and disposable speculative commercial and residential development.”
Private investment in historic districts creates local jobs, conserves natural resources, makes use of existing infrastructure, builds a heritage tourism economy, and creates pride in Texas history. It is also a billion dollar industry in Texas.
“Historic preservation is a powerful economic tool,” added Orr. “In Dallas County alone, nearly $450,000,000 has been invested in federal tax credit restoration projects, but only because of the existence of National Register districts. That investment is wasted when historic districts are eroded for lack of code enforcement, maintenance, and demolitions. And we put preservation architects, engineers, craftsmen and artisans in Texas out of work when we destroy historic places.”
“Preservation Texas is prepared to assist local governments and preservation organizations in mobilizing Texans to protect our increasingly scarce historic resources,” said Thompson. “The United States Supreme Court settled the issue of property rights and historic preservation a long time ago. It’s in our long-term public interest to protect the irreplaceable.”
Preservation Texas suggests the following ten steps that local governments and preservation organizations can take to save their historic downtown neighborhoods:
1. Survey the historic architecture in urban neighborhoods, update old surveys, and engage in research and documentation of the history of the urban built environment
2. Prioritize advocacy for endangered buildings in downtown National Register Historic Districts by working with economic development agencies, real estate professionals and property investors to save them, and aggressively opposing their demolition
3. Adopt and amend local ordinances to create local historic districts that provide meaningful regulations, public notice and public hearings when demolition permits are sought for structures in National Register Historic Districts, and empower local government to deny demolition requests
4. Publicize federal, state and local tax incentives for historic preservation, creating new incentives wherever possible
5. Enforce demolition by neglect ordinances by focusing within National Register Historic Districts
6. Develop design guidelines to ensure appropriate redevelopment of historic buildings and neighborhoods
7. Educate historic property owners about the value of protecting the integrity of the interior of historic buildings, particularly commercial spaces and semi-public entrances, lobbies, reception areas, halls, and auditoriums
8. Encourage private, voluntary donations of historic preservation easements to qualifying local and statewide organizations
9. Fully fund and staff professional municipal historic preservation offices and programs
10. Recognize and reward successful rehabilitation projects in National Register districts with special ribbon cuttings, publicity and awards and by encouraging patronage of businesses that locate in historic buildings
Preservation Texas, Inc. is the advocate for preserving the historic resources of Texas. Founded in 1985, the nonprofit organization named its first list of endangered sites in 2004. Its Most Endangered Places program is funded in part by grants and sponsorships from across the state. For more information on Texas’ Most Endangered Places, visit www.preservationtexas.org .