YUP: Bikes, Beer & Buildings

The media tells us, with valid evidence, that appreciation for historic buildings is on the upswing, and the number of craft brewers continues to grow, and alternate modes of transportation are catching on in urban areas.

Where can you find all of these in one place? Check out Rochester, New York. The Young Urban Preservationists (“YUP”) of the Landmark Society of Western New York hosted its second annual BBB – Bikes, Beer & Buildings – scavenger hunt on Saturday July 11, 2015. Caitlin Meives (UVM HP Alum 2008), Preservation Planner with the Landmark Society, gave me the rundown on the event and the group.

BBB-15-square

PiP: Tell me about Bikes, Beer & Buildings. 

CM: Bikes, Beer & Buildings is a great way to explore Rochester’s neighborhoods, see some lesser known landmarks, and learn about ongoing preservation projects. Organized by The Landmark Society’s Young Urban Preservationists (“YUPs”), BBB is Rochester’s first bike-based scavenger hunt. The YUPs provide the clues and you (and your team of 1-4 people) hop on your bikes and hunt down the buildings (or architectural features, parks, structures, etc).

PiP: How many years running? Where did you get the idea and the name? 

CM: This was our 2nd year. Last year, shortly after we formed, one of our steering committee members said he wanted to organized a bike scavenger hunt. So we did. Coming up with a clever name for events is always annoying so we thought, “Well, it involves three of our favorite things: bikes, beer and buildings….so why not just call it that!”

Happy participants! Photo provided by the Landmark Society for Western New York.

Happy participants! Photo provided by the Landmark Society for Western New York.

PiP: What’s the purpose or goal of BBB? 

CM: To have fun. To get out and see the city on two wheels. To see the exciting adaptive reuse projects that are happening all over the city. To see neighborhoods, parks, and buildings that a lot of people wouldn’t otherwise see or notice. Big picture, we (the YUPs) are also trying to engage as many youngish folks as possible. There is a an ever-growing community of young people in the area, especially in the city of Rochester, who are committed to their communities and are preservationists at heart.

PiP: Was it a success? 

CM: Yes, it’s a big hit and we’ll definitely do it again! This year we had 33 teams and just over 75 participants! We also had a bunch of local businesses and organizations who sponsored the event and provided in-kind donations of their awesome products for our prize baskets.

The beer garden! Photo courtesy of the Landmark Society of Western New York.

The beer garden! Photo courtesy of the Landmark Society of Western New York.

PiP: What was the best part of the event? 

CM: Watching everyone enjoy a cold beer or the purple “Pedaler’s Punch” that Lux Bar & Lounge prepared for our hot and tired cyclists.

Happy bikers and building lovers enjoying a cold beer. Photo courtesy of the Landmark Society of Western New York.

Happy bikers and building lovers enjoying a cold beer. Photo courtesy of the Landmark Society of Western New York.

PiP: Who are the YUPs?

CM: The YUPs are a group of youngish folks interested in preservation and community revitalization. We come from various walks of life and various professions—lawyers, planners, doctors, veterinarians, architects, writers, artists—but we all have one thing in common: we care about our communities and we believe our historic resources play an important role in any community’s revitalization.

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What does “young” mean? Whatever you want it to! We’re targeting those oft-maligned by the media “millennials” (aged 20 to about 40) but, more importantly, we want to connect with like-minded people who are invested in their communities and are young at heart.

PiP: Sounds awesome! Can you offer any advice for groups wanting to do something similar to BBB? 

CM: Four tips for you:

  1. You need a dedicated and committed group of organizers. You don’t need a lot of people, you just need organized and committed people. In fact, if you have too many people it can become unwieldy. How you structure the organizing of an event like this depends on the structure and dynamics of your group. I happen to be one of the co-founders of the YUPs and I work for The Landmark Society, the organization with which the YUPs are affiliated, so it naturally falls to me to more or less lead the charge and to make sure we stay on track. In this case, delegating and giving people ownership of a task or an event can be challenging. However, in our 2nd year organizing this event, I found that people felt much more comfortable taking charge. If your group was formed more organically by people who just came together to form a group on their own, likely you’ll all have that sense of ownership to begin with. Regardless, I think it’s important to make sure someone is the point-person for the event as a whole or for each facet of the event. If everyone is running around doing a little bit of everything and no one is in charge of one thing, things can really easily slip through the cracks. Trust me. We had one or two last minute snafus.

  2. Partnerships are key. Starting an event from scratch is tricky, especially if your group/organization is new and doesn’t have a huge base from which to pull. Our first year, two days out from the scavenger hunt, we had three teams registered. Then one of our partners, a popular local blog that focuses on urban and preservation-related issues, shared the event through its social media. The flood gates opened and we breathed a huge sigh of relief.

  3. Start small and work your way up. You don’t want your first attempt to be a colossal failure. So don’t set yourself up for failure by biting off more than you can chew or by expecting unrealistic numbers.

  4. Learn and adapt. Your event won’t be perfect the first, second, or third time around. But have fun with it, make sure your participants have fun, and get feedback from them.

PiP: Where can we find the Landmark Society or YUP on Social Media? 

Thank you, Caitlin, YUPs, and The Landmark Society of Western New York! Great job on such a wonderful event. 

With Your Coffee

Warm days in Montreal, where this is never-ending architectural eye candy.

Warm days in Montreal, where this is never-ending architectural eye candy.

Happy weekend! It’s been a nice week here in Vermont and Montreal with a few days of warmer temperatures and (some) blooming flowers, giving us reminders of the beautiful warm months ahead. No matter what the season, one of my favorite things to do is sip a cup of coffee and read a good article or blog post, or discuss one with a friend. Here are a few items I’ve found recently; maybe you’ll like them too.

I hope your Easter weekend is perfect.  What are you reading? Let me know if you’d like to see this feature again. Coffee cheers!

IMPORTANT Preservation Legislation – WE NEED YOUR HELP

Do you follow Preservation Action for updates on preservation policy? It’s a good idea to do so, because as you know, legislation can make all the difference for preservation funding and government action. While much of preservation happens at the local level, the federal level carries much influence as well. A recent update that is worth your time:

MILITARY LAND ACT WOULD AMEND NATIONAL HISTORIC PRESERVATION ACT (and not in a good way) 

The summary and suggestion from Preservation Action (see their press release and an update):

Thursday, May 8, 2014, the House Natural Resources Committee will mark up H.R. 3687, the Military LAND Act.

This bill would amend the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966 to allow federal agencies to block and rescind the listing of federal properties on the National Register of Historic Places, National Historic Landmarks, and on the World Heritage List for national security reasons.

Maureen Sullivan of the Department of Defense and Stephanie Toothman of the National Park Service both testified in opposition to the bill on April 29, 2014.

Preservation Action, National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation wrote the Public Lands and Environment Subcommittee Chair and Ranking Member outlining preservationists’ concerns and opposition to the bill.

Stop Congress from taking steps to undermine historic preservation. Please write members of the House Natural Resources Committee and ask them to oppose this harmful bill.

WHAT CAN YOU DO? Now is the time to contact legislators whether via a letter, email or phone call. Preservation is powerful when people speak up. The U.S. Military owns vast tracts of historic properties across the nation. As an example, the Army owns over 20,000 buildings considered eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. And that is only one military branch.

WHAT SHOULD YOU WRITE? Preservation Action suggests this letter (copy & paste, and email – it’s that easy!)

May 7, 2014

Dear (Representative or Senator Name):

I am deeply concerned with H.R. 3687, the Military LAND Act. This bill would amend the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966 to allow federal agencies to block and rescind the listing of federal properties on the National Register of Historic Places, National Historic Landmarks, and on the World Heritage List for national security reasons. H.R. 3687 wrongly raises alarm that designation of historic sites weakens the authority of federal agencies to protect our national security. There is nothing that imposes any legal constraint on federal agencies to protect the interests of national security.

In addition, the bill creates a new requirement of Congressional review that could unfairly politicize the process of evaluating historic significance which has existed without issue for the past nearly 50 years.

The NHPA provides the direction and tools to protect our historic resources and, importantly, sets up a clear process of consideration of our historic heritage. Federal, state, and local governments use the NHPA to identify, preserve and protect our historical, architectural, archeological and cultural resources. The National Register of Historic Places is currently comprised of more than 88,000 listings. Listing a property or determining the eligibility of a property for the National Register does not limit a federal agencies authority.

Please do not undermine our nation’s historic preservation. I ask you to oppose H.R. 3687 and any provisions that would weaken the NHPA.

Regards,

(Your Name)

I wrote my senator. Will you?

Preservation is Good for Your Health

Mark Fenton, the keynote speaker for the Rhode Island Preservation Conference delivered one of the best talks I’ve heard. He linked public health and historic preservation, in a way that makes the connection seem so obvious. Read on to learn more from Mark’s conference talk.

Preservation is good for your health, plain and simple. Preservation improves quality of life, which likely includes health. Many of us know this, but have we thought about it enough to put it into words?

How is preservation good for you? Historic towns and cities were built for human scale, often prior to our auto-centric designs. This means that buildings are closer together, the streets are not filled with vast parking lots and strip-mall style setbacks. Streetscapes include sidewalks, street furniture, mature shade trees. Cars are not what connected people. Instead, people walked or rode public transit.

The problem with our auto-centric suburbs? Our transportation design and development patterns do not encourage walking (i.e. exercise). Every task requires a car. Bike paths don’t necessarily link neighborhoods to a downtown core. The destinations need to be functional, with the trailheads at our front doors.

The solution? Better design that allows passive exercise for all ages. Meaning that people are encouraged and able to walk for errands. Not every task requires a car. Networks are safe and user friendly. How? Vocal concerned citizens need to speak up and alert their elected officials that design matters. Their town doesn’t have to settle for the typical corporate big-box chain look. Schools should be built in towns, rather than off in the middle-of-nowhere. Zoning needs to change.

We need to stop building a world conducive to inactivity, and recognize that our historic development patterns made more sense. Telling people to exercise is not going to work. It’s like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Instead, we need to change how we design, how we build.

Transportation design, building design, and community planning must be improved. Step up to the plate and negotiate. Make your community healthy and believe that your community deserves the absolute best, not the run-of-the-mill design.

Need smaller steps in your community? Add benches. Add shade trees. Buy a bike rack. Be an active role model. If you can, try walking for just one errand. Businesses are looking to locate in healthy communities.

Doesn’t it make perfect sense? Of course historic preservation is good for you. And that is another tool in our preservation toolbox.

Want to hear the entire talk? Watch it here – begin at 23 minutes for Mark.

Providence, RI. A healthy city block.

Providence, RI. A healthy city block.

Abandoned Vermont: Highgate Falls Church

It’s a good time to address underused churches in Vermont. The Vermont Historic Preservation & Downtown Conference features a work day at Christ Church on Thursday May 1, 2014. Too many of our churches sit empty with small, shrinking congregations, extremely limited (or no) funding, and an uncertain fate. The case of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Highgate, VT is one of the many that is not abandoned, but is underused. It is used seasonally for weddings. Members of the church currently attend services in nearby Swanton, VT. Currently this church appears to be in good condition.

The Preservation Trust of Vermont works with Partners for Sacred Spaces and the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation to host retreats that will aid organizations in developing uses for their churches. (This year’s is May 15-16 at the Grand Isle Lake House in Grand Isle, VT.)

Constructed in 1834.

Constructed in 1834.

Located in Highgate Falls, VT.

Located in Highgate Falls, VT.

The rear of the church.

The rear of the church.

You can see clear through the window across the church. Is anything more lovely than a historic window?

You can see clear through the window across the church. Is anything more lovely than a historic window?

Beautiful windows.

Beautiful windows.

The sign on the front of the church.

The sign on the front of the church.

This odd photo - pardon the blurry foreground, blame the iphone - shows the interior of the church. That is as much as I could see inside.

This odd photo – pardon the blurry foreground, blame the iphone – shows the interior of the church. That’s as much as I could see inside.

What a beauty. This church is located down the road from Highgate Manor and the Highgate Falls Lenticular truss. Read more about Highgate, a small town in Franklin County, northwestern Vermont.

 

boston

Boston Marathon Day

Today is Patriots Day in Massachusetts, which commemorates the first battle of the American Revolution. Today is also known as the day of the Boston Marathon to us runners. Boston in an important race, this year more so than others due to the tragic events of the 2013 race. Some are running for those killed, those injured, in support of Boston and runners everywhere, and for countless other reasons. To many runners, Boston is THE race. Since you have to qualify based on time and age, it’s often a personal triumph to marathoners. The spirit of the Boston Marathon is contagious. Having not run Boston myself (maybe some day), I’m cheering on a few dear runner friends today, wishing them the absolute best experience.

boston

A few Boston facts for you.

  • The first Boston Marathon was held in 1897, though it was only 24.5 miles as opposed to the full 26.2 miles that we know today.
  • Why the Boston Marathon? The 1896 Olympic Games in Athens included a marathon race, which was based on Pheidippides’ fabled run from Marathon to Athens. When the Boston Athletic Association wanted a race in 1897 of similar style for the New Patriots Day, they chose a route from the Revolutionary War. (See more in this article from The Atlantic).
  • The race begins in Hopkinton and ends on Boylston Street in Boston (see map).
  • Heartbreak Hill is at mile 20.5. While it’s not the worst hill by itself, any hill at mile 20 is not welcome (at least the uphill part). And since mile 20 is often referred to as “the wall,” this hill packs an extra punch.
  • Women were not allowed to run in the marathon until 1972 (no joke!). From the History Channel: Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb couldn’t wait: In 1966, she became the first woman to run the entire Boston Marathon, but had to hide in the bushes near the start until the race began. In 1967, Kathrine Switzer, who had registered as “K. V. Switzer”, was the first woman to run with a race number. Switzer finished even though officials tried to physically remove her from the race after she was identified as a woman.
  • There are approximately 36,000 people racing Boston today. 

Are you watching? Have fun!

Freeways to Boulevards and Parks: A Brief Introduction

Transportation tells the story of our culture: how we travel, in what style, what mode and to where. Depending on the design and form of our routes, it tells our priorities and the purpose of the roads.

Consider parkways of the 1920s-1940s: scenic, winding, stone bridges and underpasses, grassy medians, low speed limits. These roads were constructed for an enjoyable ride, making the journey part of the destination. Now consider interstates of the 1950s – 1970s or later: wide lane with wide shoulders, limited access, high speeds, blasting through the landscape. These corridors were built for efficiency and speed, getting the traveling public from one place to another.

Why is there such a difference in road construction? Just as our tastes in fashion, design, food, and culture change, so do our theories and methods of planning, construction, and transportation. Theories and methods change to fit our needs and wants, as evident by the evolution of our roadways.

Take note of where major highways are located, and you’ll see that many hug the waterfront of cities. These roads divide the waterfront from the city dwellers, which seem to ignore the potential high-value real estate. Don’t the best cities embrace their waterfront? Why would we ignore that by constructing roads instead of boardwalks, beaches, and parks? There are a few important factors to understand (note these are not all-inclusive).

(1) Until the modern era, the waterfront often represented the industry of a city. Shipping ports were major transportation centers, where goods would come in or leave the city. Waterfronts were for business, not play. Even little Burlington, Vermont had  waterfront filled with railroad lines, oil tanks, the lumber industry, etc. It was much different than today.

(2) Since the waterfront was not a cherished place in cities, especially as industry changed in the United States, building a road along the shorelines seemed to make sense. Transportation was replacing industry, particularly the shipping and rail industry.

(3) Before the interstate were the low speed (relatively speaking) parkways were constructed (think early Robert Moses era), driving was recreation and leisure. A Sunday drive was leisure time to Americans, and driving on a scenic highway adjacent to the the water made for beautiful views and a lovely afternoon.

(4) Interstates often replaced parkways. And interstates caused devastation through cities across the nation. However, building the interstate along the waterfront often was a path of least resistance, as they would transport vehicles around the city at high speeds, avoiding the congestion of inner city loops. .

(5) Recreation and city planning changed. Whether a parkway or an interstate, this pattern of development left the waterfront divided from city dwellers. At the time when these roads were constructed, people were moving out of cities, not living in them. The effects to a city were less noticeable than they might today. When people began living in cities as opposed to living in the suburbs, city dwellers wanted to reclaim the empty waterfronts.

Half a century later and development patterns and planning theories have indeed changed. Today cities across the country are working to remove (yes, remove!) freeways and reclaim the waterfront by turning the roads into boulevards or parks. An article 6 Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever (Gizmodo) is an amazing collection of examples around the world. On the east coast, you might know the Big Dig in Boston. On the west coast, Harbor Drive in Portland, OR is a well-know case study.

6 Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever

Harbor Drive in Portland, Oregon BEFORE freeway removal. Click for source & article.

6 Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever

Harbor Drive AFTER freeway removal. Click for source & article.

And there are many cities with proposals in mind such as Syracuse, New York and Niagara Falls, New York. PreserveNet keeps a website by the Preservation Institute detailing freeway removal projects. These are not minor undertakings. They are an incredible feats, requiring major design shifts. Improving quality of life within cities by giving pleasant open space to all speaks volumes to how we view and use cities today. Gone are the days when people are fleeing cities to the suburbs and need the roads to get in and out of the cities as quickly as possible. Instead, we see the value in these dense, urban environments. Quite the bold revitalization, and an example of what good a dramatic change can accomplish.

What do you think? Anything to add?

 

A Cafe sans Screens and Wifi

A coffee shop. A nice place to work, right? Or socializing?

In October, Preservation in Pink discussed the Coffee Shop Conundrum: coffee shop atmosphere and aesthetics, the cost of a cup of coffee, how much to spend in a small business, and how long to stay. Do you have coffee shop guilt? How can a coffee shop be the best atmosphere, the most inviting, and still make a profit?

You might have seen the recent NPR story on August First, a coffee shop/cafe in Burlington, Vermont that has banned screens (laptops and tablets) as of March 31, 2014. Why? Customers were squatting, staying too long and the business was losing money. Buying a few cups of coffee for a few hours was just not cutting it for profits. Additionally, when all of the tables are always full with people and laptops, it does not create the community feel that August First wanted. Rather than being social and neighborly, people were setting up shop with more space than needed and not leaving. The tables were not turning over. So August First made a bold move. Two years ago they cut the free wifi, and this year they banned screens (smartphones are allowed). The result? Sales have increased, even with people’s complaining.

August First in Burlington, VT.

August First in Burlington, VT.

While banning screens sounds crazy, you can probably understand August First’s point-of-view. Haven’t you ever walked into a cafe where the tables were all full, some with one person taking up a table for four? That isn’t fair to anyone.

If you read the comments on the NPR articles (hundreds) you’ll see that there are many issues at hand:

  1. Customers squatting at tables cuts down in revenues because tables do not turn over;
  2. Tables that do not turn over will discourage people from returning because they expect to not be able to find a table;
  3. What sort of atmosphere are the business trying to create?;
  4. Cafes are not meant to be alternate offices for freelancers (although I’m sure we’ve all wished about that!);
  5. Is there more of an issue for small business owners than chains such as Starbucks or Barnes & Noble?

The first two are easy to comprehend. Customers spending a few hours and drinking two cups of coffee, for example, will not create as much business as a group of people drinking a cup of coffee or eating a meal. Customers taking up more than one chair and space for one person, prevent more customers from choosing to drink/dine in this cafe.

Yet, some businesses might want the creative writing/academic/business crowd to settle in for a while and appreciate the space. Some people crave working in environments where you are allowed to drink coffee (as in, not the library) and hear the hum of everyday life around you while you work. As discussed in Coffee Shop Conundrum, Starbucks is not an environment where you’d want to say a while (in my opinion). A local, cozy, friendly coffee shop is. At that point, the issue becomes about respect and etiquette, issues often overlooked when screens are in front of our faces. Do not use the coffee shop as your office and spend enough money when you are there. However, what is the appropriate amount of money?

The issue of coffee shop space diverges into credit card v. cash purchases and the evolving nature of how we communicate, interact, and work.

Are there solutions? Well, for those who do not understand that a coffee shop is not an office, they should consider collaborative/co-working office space: renting a desk in an office with other freelancers. If you find the right space, you’ll find your ideal coffee shop/work atmosphere. Even the small city of Montpelier, Vermont has such a space – Local 64. Look around in your city.

What about a different approach? How about a pay-as-you-go space? A cafe in the U.K. and one in Buenos Aires serve as the examples. You pay for the amount of time that you’re in the cafe, not for anything else. It hearkens back to the days of the internet cafe, when you were paying for internet. It’s another version of the co-working space.

And then there are variations. Some coffee shops give you a code when you place an order. Once you run out of internet time, you have to buy something else to get additional time. Other places request that you limit your time and table space during busy hours. Perhaps creating a screen section would work.

Of course, each business can do what is best for its business and create the environment it would like. As we become more mobile and screen-attached, small businesses will have to be creative and find solutions to keep up their profits. Good job to August First for being braving and finding what works for them. Not to mention, the food is delicious, and August First is located in a historic building.

What do you think? Are there other issues? Does your favorite coffee shop have wifi? Any other solutions? What’s the balance?

The 11 Most Endangered Places

Fighting battles (often uphill battles) is something we preservationists agree to, knowingly or not, when we jump into the historic preservation field. Not everything is a battle, but some definitely are. There is no way around the battle, you just have to go through it. And some of these projects need a boost. Each year the National Trust for Historic Places accepts nominations for its “11 Most Endangered Places” list. Placement in this list is not a guarantee of success, but it has yielded wonderful success stories over the years.

Do you have a historic site that needs publicity, funding, solutions and help? Odds are, you do. You can nominate a  historic site. Read on for the press release from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Deadline is March 3rd to Submit a Nomination to National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2014 List of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places

The deadline is fast approaching to submit a nomination for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2014 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places®. For over a quarter century, this list has highlighted important examples of the nation’s architectural, cultural and natural heritage that are at risk for destruction or irreparable damage. Nominations are due on Monday, March 3, 2014.

“Historic places are a tangible reminder of who we are as a nation,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “For over 25 years, the National Trust’s list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places has helped shine a spotlight on threatened historic places throughout the nation, helping not only to preserve these places, but also galvanizing local support for the preservation of other unique, irreplaceable treasures that make our nation and local communities special.”

More than 250 threatened one-of-a-kind historic treasures have been identified on the list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places since 1988. Whether these sites are urban districts or rural landscapes, Native American landmarks or 20th-century sports arenas, entire communities or single buildings, the list spotlights historic places across America that are facing a range of threats including insufficient funds, inappropriate development or insensitive public policy. The designation has been a powerful tool for raising awareness and rallying resources to save endangered sites from every region of the country.

The places on the list need not be famous, but they must be significant within their own cultural context, illustrate important issues in preservation and have a need for immediate action to stop or reverse serious threats. All nominations are subject to an extensive, rigorous vetting process.

Follow the National Trust @PresNation and 11 Most list #11Most

For additional information, e-mail 11Most@savingplaces.org or call 202.588.6141. To learn more about the program and to submit a nomination, visit:  www.preservationnation.org/11most

Remember, due this Monday March 3. Consider it weekend homework for a great cause. Find the nomination for here.

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The Historic Rural Schoolhouses of Montana were collectively listed in the 2013 11 Most Endangered Places. Their threat was lack of funding. Photo by Carroll Van West, via the National Trust. Click for source.

The Historic Rural Schoolhouses of Montana were collectively listed in the 2013 11 Most Endangered Places. Their threat was lack of funding. Photo by Carroll Van West, via the National Trust. Click for source.

Side note: “The Most Endangered Places” always sounds like “The Most Dangerous Game.” Is anyone else still stuck in English class? 

Preservation on the Ground: Woodbury’s Armory in Burlington, VT

A historic building that sits empty for ten years is not an untold story in preservation, even if it appears to be in a prime location. The brick armory on Main Street in Burlington, VT sat empty since 2003, leaving passersby to wonder about its fate. What they did not know: this story is different. 

The Armory in its day as Hunt's Mill & Mining. Photo source: Housing Vermont. Click for link.

The Armory in its day as R.W. Hunt Mill & Mining Company. Photo source: Housing Vermont. Click for link.

Setting the Stage: Woodbury’s Armory

Urban Woodbury built the Armory in 1904 and leased the space to the National Guard. In its storied history, the Armory has served as a car dealership, R.W. Hunt Mill & Mining Company, Sha-Na-Na’s Night Club, and as office space. Circa 2000, a popular local music venue was looking to buy the space, but couldn’t decipher logistics with the City of Burlington. Fire struck in 2003, leaving the building unoccupied and seemingly forgotten after 100 years of use.

Enter Redstone

Who would want a burned-out, muddled, old building? Most would shy away. Fortunately, not Redstone, a company well known and respected for its historic preservation and rehabilitation of Vermont buildings such as the Chace Mill in Winooski and the Maltex Building in Burlington’s South End. After the fire, Redstone purchased and mothballed the building, and began working on the dilemma of the Armory’s next chapter. Erik Hoekstra, manager of the project, met with me on a surprisingly warm January afternoon for a tour of the building and project talk.

View from the corner of Main Street and Pine Street.

View from the corner of Main Street and Pine Street.

The Big (Block) Picture

The real story is that the building was never forgotten. Like its past, the future of Woodbury’s Armory is part of a bigger picture: the redevelopment of the Main-Pine-King-St. Paul block in the City of Burlington. The block includes TD Bank, Hinds Lofts, a mixed use block (King Street Housing), and a handful of private residences.

The Armory is located at the corner of Main Street and Pine Street. Note its location between the waterfront and Church Street.

The Armory is located at the corner of Main Street and Pine Street. Note its location between the waterfront and Church Street.

In addition to being a part of this block redevelopment, the Armory stands as an important link between Burlington’s successful Church Street pedestrian mall and the popular Lake Champlain Waterfront.

Landscaping plan-2 copy2

A landscaping plan, courtesy of Redstone, edited by author. Main Street is at the top of the image.

As Hoekstra and Redstone worked to develop a successful plan, the company invested in new windows, new stone sills, brick repointing and a new roof in 2007 for the Armory.  Not forgotten, but rather, the building was waiting for a sound, successful plan to germinate. According to Hoekstra, parking and finances were great challenges of this project. Parking is at a premium in the City of Burlington, and a building like the Armory didn’t come with parking. Working with property acquired from TD Bank, Redstone was able redesign the remaining open block space – then a surface parking lot – and provide enough parking.  In terms of finances, the Armory could not succeed alone as standalone project. It had to be bigger. It needed the entire block.   In the end, there are many funding partners and sources including Vermont State Tax Credits and New Market Tax Credits.

The first floor of the Armory shows where a pool will be located and where the floor above had to be removed.

The first floor of the Armory shows where a pool will be located and where the floor above had to be removed.

The Plan

As of February 2014, construction is well underway at the Armory. The Main-Pine-King-St. Paul block will soon be home to a new hotel, parking garage, and retail space. Woodbury’s Armory, on the Main Street/Pine Street corner will serve as the hotel lobby for the Hilton Garden Inn. The first floor of the Armory will house the hotel pool and retail space, hopefully a restaurant to add to Burlington’s eclectic mix of eateries. To the south and extending east from Armory will be an addition to house the 2 story parking garage with 4 floors of hotel rooms above. Sensitive to streetscape and the historic context, the garage/hotel addition will have different height elevation on St. Paul Street and Pine Street. Guests will access the lobby from the porte-cochère off Main Street.

The King Street and Main Street elevations of the project. Photo courtesy of Redstone.

The King Street and Main Street elevations of the project. Photo courtesy of Redstone.

St. Paul Street and Pine Street elevations. Courtesy of Redstone.

St. Paul Street and Pine Street elevations. Courtesy of Redstone.

Preservationists might ask why a chain hotel? Hoekstra said that although Redstone hoped for a boutique hotel, banks were only agreeable to funding an established, large business with a loyal customer base. The Hilton Garden Inn will be operated under a franchise agreement with Hilton, but will be locally owned by Redstone and partners.  Hilton has been amenable in terms of designing a unique space and incorporating the Armory’s historic features into the rehabilitation. The 139 room hotel is set to open by the end of 2014.

The Armory under construction, February 2014.

The Armory under construction, February 2014.

Why the Armory & Historic Preservation?

As Erik Hoekstra stated, Redstone prefers preservation and rehabilitation projects because of the challenge and commitment to the community. Sprawl development does not give that same satisfaction of project completion. Urban infill, smart growth, and redevelopment make the job more interesting.

One of the best finds of the restoration was uncovering the Armory carved into the granite lintel.

One of the best finds of the restoration was uncovering the Armory carved into the granite lintel.

Hoekstra credits his interest in historic buildings and development to growing up in several historic houses, including a Sears Roebuck Catalog house in LaGrange, IL. Hoekstra studied real estate and finance and worked in New York City before coming to Vermont in 2001 to work with Housing Vermont and later Redstone. He studied Real Estate Development in the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

Interested in Hoekstra’s line of work? He advises that there are many roads to working in development and historic preservation. Some include working in construction, property management, finance or a non-profit organization like Housing Vermont. Hoekstra says that no matter the type of company, the process is still the same: Design, permit, finance, legal, construction.

When asked about his favorite part of this project, Hoekstra said that it’s seeing all of the puzzle pieces fit together. And that is always a preservation success story.

A view looking north on Pine Street.

A view looking north on Pine Street.