(photo: save riverview)
This past March, 200 participants from 46 states met to discuss the impact of federal stimulus dollars on current preservation efforts. The members of the conference, sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, discussed what they see as the perfect storm regarding the proposals to spend the flood of stimulus dollars earmarked to restart the economy:
The perfect storm is created when a flood of new stimulus dollars intended for "shovel-ready" projects hits the ground at the exact same moment when state governments are responding to widespread budget deficits and dreary bottom lines by slashing (or completely turning off) funding for historic preservation programs.According to their website, the National Trust has identified two consequences of the effect of the stimulus money:
This is creating an unusual situation that both threatens historic resources and offers unprecedented opportunities for their revitalization.
This is the perfect storm.
First, state and local authorities may feel pressured to "fast-track" projects that are under review in order to show they are using the money to generate jobs.
This means that compliance at the state and local level with required environmental and preservation reviews may be repealed or weakened. And though federal-level reviews are required, they may be severely hindered with limited and/or strained staffing.Second, money earmarked for historic preservation is being slashed in order to redirect it towards development that is believed to result in more immediate economic stimulus.
In response to budget shortfalls, state governments are eliminating preservation programs, cutting funding, freezing positions, and, in some instances, completely restructuring state historic preservation offices.The Paul Rudolph Foundation is monitoring several projects that have been identified as "threatened" with demolition in the past to see if proposed stimulus money is being used to further the destruction or insensitive alteration of these buildings.
As was the result with Paul Rudolph's Riverview High School in Sarasota, preservation was not considered a viable option by the local school board, which asked for the money to pay for the reuse of the building be in place before they would vote to save it from demolition.
Another problem confronting the efforts to preserve Paul Rudolph's work is the age of the surviving structures. Typically, a building is eligible for landmark status at 50 years of age. As most buildings have a 35 year planned lifespan, there is a window of 10-15 years during which time it may or may not survive to become "worth" preservation by the local community. The bulk of Rudolph's work - when he was at his creative peak - was built from 1957-1970 and falls within this window.
Even as Yale's Art & Architecture Building has been renovated and renamed Rudolph Hall, there are buildings of the same era that may or may not survive to be similarly appreciated. Plans to demolish Rudolph's Chorley Elementary School in Middletown, NY were approved by the community this past year for instance.
While new construction is often seen as the easiest way to generate jobs and answer issues regarding the outgrowth of a building by its occupants, the truth according to the National Trust is that renovation and sensitive adapative reuse are the key to solving employment issues regarding the current economic stimulus:
It is 20 to 40 percent more labor intensive than new construction, and it continually generates more than a dollar return on each dollar invested. As a powerful engine that drives real, sustainable economic growth, preservation can (and should) be a key strategy for our economic recovery.The Paul Rudolph Foundation is committed to seeing that his work weathers the current 'perfect storm' - to join our efforts, please email the Paul Rudolph Foundation at email@example.com