Finding you in that room changed my life and stirred my soul. You had been waiting a long time, when the librarian showed me back to a large public meeting room and opened the door. There were some large colorized prints of the neighborhood places hanging around the room on the wall, and you were featured in one of the images. It was the coolest thing I had ever happened upon.
Does absence make the heart grow fonder? It has been over a year since writing about my new duty with Colorado Main Street and a lot happened in 2018, just not so much blog writing! I am sorry for such a lengthy break. The move to Colorado was a challenging transition for my family, and spending time acclimating and adventuring together has taken priority.
Moving is like uprooting a plant and putting it somewhere new. Our life-connections (the people and places in our daily lives) are radically altered, and we have to adjust and figure out our place again.
In late February 2018, I will begin serving as the new Colorado Main Street Architect. The Colorado Main Street Program is housed in the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), Division of Local Government (DLG) and rests at the absolute heart of DOLA’s goal to “Strengthen Colorado Communities.”
Having grown up in a small town in Oklahoma, improving the quality of life in rural communities is something I care about deeply. My love for rural community development really blossomed during my 6 years with the Oklahoma Main Street Program.
Since its kick-start in 2011, the Colorado Main Street Program has been providing high-quality, state-wide support to...
There is not a leaf that has fallen without promise. The promise of renewed life and the coming spring. Underlying this is an order that connects all things. Sometimes, architects have a sensitivity toward nature, but it is something that we could all explore further.
Sustainable communities, like the blood and flesh of our own bodies, are made from living parts. Just as the human body regenerates its own cells regularly, it also experiences entropy. In a similar way, we should not forget...
Last week kicked off a broad sweep through some ideas for conservation-based development. Quality infill development can certainly conserve resources. It can also break the cycle of disinvestment and build back the vibrancy and strength that was lost when the heartstrings of our towns were stretched out in all directions.
The heart of a Green Heart Town is its historic district, and quality infill construction is a primary tool for keeping them healthy and strong. The Main Street district and surrounding historic neighborhoods were once the seat of all town life, the best place to buy and trade for good and services and interact with others from the area. After a time of disinvestment in historic downtowns from the 1960s-90s, these places are again becoming full of vibrant new potential.
Want a simple equation to make the places you love stronger? Do you want to better understand your place in the world and leave it better for the next generation? Maybe you are interested in a more sustainable built environment, including green architecture, sustainable planning and historic preservation. If so, then I began this blog for you.
I tend to think of our natural environment as both a gift and a resource. It gives us everything we need. Unfortunately, modern culture appears to be causing more negative impacts than positive. Do you see this too? What if we could work to lighten our environmental footprints while also strengthening our communities? This may be possible with a simple shift in thinking.
Regarding architecture, the Tillotson family's saying is "Don't build it for looks, build it bully for stout." This comes from T.L. Tillotson, my wife's grandfather. Even though I never met him, I have a great deal of respect for him.
The Mesta Park historic renovation is moving ahead. Rain caused some delays, but the foundation was finally poured. Over the last few weeks, I have gathered some photos on-site, and I wanted to share an update before the work progressed too far.
This week at Green Heart Town Patrice Frey, President and CEO of Main Street America, joins us for the second half of our recent interview. Last week we discussed her background in sustainability and green historic preservation. In the following interview, we will discuss Patrice’s transition to leading the National Main Street Center, updating the brand for over 1,600 neighborhoods and communities nationwide, and “refreshing” the time-tested Four Point Approach.
Several weeks ago, we covered how “Main Street is the Time-Tested Basis for Green Heart Towns”, but at the conclusion of the post, I wanted to know more about what was happening with the program.
This week at Green Heart Town we have a very special guest. We interview Patrice Frey, President and CEO of Main Street America about her background in sustainability and her role in the movement of green historic preservation.
In recent years, there has been a growing undercurrent of people who appreciate historic buildings as both culturally significant and inherently sustainable resources. Living in a Green Heart Town requires understanding the deep value your historic properties offer. Through my work with the Oklahoma Main Street Program, I have been fortunate to follow this ray of truth and learn from sustainability champions like Patrice.
Last time we shared the list of work items included in the Scope of Work for the application for Certificate of Authority (CA). After leaving from our initial meetings with the City’s Historic Preservation (HP) staff and Code Enforcement inspector, we had a plan. Since the deadline to submit for that month’s HP Commission meeting was very close at hand, we submitted a partially completed application. Thank you for the nice trick HP staff! We were ready to get the ball rolling.
Completing the historic preservation review process and earning your first certificate of appropriateness may sound a little tedious but it doesn't have to be. Taking the right approach, the process can be straightforward and instructive while providing a neat lesson on your community’s traditional building methods. Earning a certificate of appropriateness (COA) for the Mesta Park project involved a learning curve but we were rewarded with a distilled understanding of the process - one that should ring true in any community.
American culture has rejected sustainable community development for too long. Even though many of us want make our community stronger, the historic heart of our towns are often weak and perforated - due to the sins of our fathers. Some of us are guilty too! Like a dead whale launched to the beach by a tidal wave, many of our communities' best properties lie broken, abandoned, and steadily decaying. How did things get this way?
Through my work as the staff architect for the Oklahoma Main Street Program, I have come to find resonance inside the bowels of the past. Often far from revitalized, our historic downtowns broadcast your town’s self-concept - just like a neon sign.
Last week began a series on renovating the worst house on the block in Oklahoma City's historic Mesta Park neighborhood. Once the property was purchased, the new owners and I met to conduct a damage assessment and form a game plan. Delayed maintenance, inappropriate materials/retrofits, and apathy are three plagues upon under-appreciated historic properties, and this one suffered from all three!
But, what the home lacked in physical condition it made up for in location. This neighborhood and its surrounding walk-shed are becoming more revitalized and vibrant by the day. At the center of the neighborhood lies Pearle Mesta Park. You can see this common green space and the the well-maintained children's play equipment from the front porch. Score!
When some close friends bought the worst home on the block in an up-and-coming historic district, they called me. They are a wonderful young couple that has made their business breathing new life into older, often neglected homes. Even though they had remodeled dozens of other properties before, this historic home renovation was going to be their toughest one yet.
“Larry we are thinking of buying a 1926 residence in Mesta Park. It has loads of potential, but man, it’s rough!”
"When we build, let us think we build forever.” John Ruskin's words evoke the notion of building in a sustainable manner, thereby leaving a legacy to future generations through the story of our places. Every day in my work at the Oklahoma Main Street Center, I am fortunate to encounter historic buildings that mirror Ruskin’s ideals; however, I have also seen in the modern building movement that we have lost our way in designing sustainable places over the last half century.
I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on a wonderful experience from 2015. I visited Taliesin West in early October to attend the the American Institute of Architect's (AIA) first joint colloquium
Call the energy retrofit doctor! Historic and existing buildings may look alright on the outside, but they could be a lot more energy efficient. Don't get me wrong; they have potential. Through the years, these properties have often been updated and remodeled, usually to address particular issues, without considering effects on whole-building energy efficiency. We tend to compartmentalize our homes, and changes to them reflect this paradigm. In the past, we many have needed more space, so we built an addition or enclosed a porch. A room got too hot or cold, so we installed an A/C unit or baseboard heater. You might live in a house with these kinds of alterations.
This kind of thinking allows for quick comfort and cheap solutions (in the short-term) but does improve the property value or allow it run at its best.
Preservation Future Tense” was the theme for Oklahoma’s 29th Annual Statewide Preservation Conference held in Oklahoma City. In partnership with our State Historic Preservation Office, the Oklahoma Main Street Program invited James Lindberg, Senior Director of the Preservation Green Lab (PGL) to speak at the closing Plenary Session. Since 2009 PGL, a part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, has authored some of the most current and forward-looking sustainable preservation research ever done.
Through reports such as The Greenest Building: Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse, PGL is outlining how historic preservation
The Main Street America™ revitalization strategy applied at the grass-roots level has allowed thousands of communities across America to recast their historic downtown districts as the heart of town life. The movement was launched by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1980. Since then, over 2,000 communities have followed the Main Street Approach, bringing renewed energy and activity to America’s downtowns and commercial districts, securing $65.6 billion in new investment, creating more than 556,000 net new jobs, and rehabilitating 260,000 buildings.
Basic weatherization is a simple approach to improve comfort, energy efficiency, air quality, and the durability of an existing building. Weatherization is composed of two primary measures: Air sealing and insulating. Both are important for improving energy efficiency, but pursuing airtightness should take precedent.
Existing buildings just don’t stand a chance. Every month many glossy architecture magazines hit the newsstands, arriving in checkout lines like a plague of locusts. Anyone who loves beauty and design can’t help but shoot a quick glance and read the headlines. We can’t help but peek. As Americans, we are programmed to desire, want, and spend.