Preservation ABCs: Q is for Quality of Life

Preservation ABCs is a series that will work its way from A to Z, bringing words into conversation that are relevant to historic preservation, whether it’s an idea, feature or vocabulary term. The idea is to help you see preservation everywhere you look and wherever you go. Enjoy! See previous letters.

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Q is for Quality of Life

A historic, walkable downtown like this one of Barre, VT might fit your quality of life.

A historic, walkable downtown like this one of Barre, VT might fit your quality of life.

Historic preservation aims to preserve the quality of life which a community values and to help foster and improve quality of life where possible. It is important to understand that quality of life means different things to everyone. Some people prefer bustling cities with reliable public transit and walkable neighborhoods. Others prefer rural country living with a small center of town. Community events might be important. Or local restaurants. Or nearby playgrounds and schools. Some prefer the beach or the mountains or the plains. The bottom line is that everyone defines their quality of life differently.

How does historic preservation connect to quality of life? Simply put, historic preservation seeks to improve the local economy, maintain and rehabilitate the existing building stock, increase awareness of a community’s heritage, engage citizens, preserve the significant past for the future and identify what and why a community is important to itself and to others. By involving people with each other and the built environment around them, their sense of place will improve and people will develop pride in their place. When people are proud of where they live and can identify what is important to them, they are happier, and as a result quality of life improves. It’s a simple chain reaction that historic preservation helps to begin. Historic preservation does not force ideas onto communities or tell people what they should prefer; it hopes the community will speak up and citizens will say “This is important to us! This is who we are and what our community is!” From that point, historic preservation will find methods to improve and protect the quality of life.

So you see, anything can feed into quality of life. And quality of life feeds into historic preservation. My favorite chain reaction is this: people define where they live –> people improve their communities and protect their communities –> people have a sense of place –> people have pride in where they live –> people have a good quality of life –> everyone is happier … therefore … historic preservation is helping to make the world a better place and helping to save the world (as we flamingos might say).

Preservation ABCs: E is for Economics

Preservation ABCs is a series that will work its way from A to Z, bringing words into conversation that are relevant to historic preservation, whether it’s an idea, feature or vocabulary term. The idea is to help you see preservation everywhere you look and wherever you go. Enjoy! See previous letters.

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E is for Economics

The corner of State Street and Main Street in Montpelier, VT.

Historic preservation is good for the economic health of your town, city, state and country; the two fields are inherently related. Investing in existing buildings in cohesive commercial cores brings people, dollars and life to your historic downtowns and city centers. Here the environment is often human scale and has grown organically, meaning that people can live comfortably in such locations. When people are able to shop, work, live and play in a central location, quality of life improves and happiness improves. Over the decades, historic buildings and downtowns have been neglected, forgotten and eventually reinvigorated. Interest in reinventing the existing built environment continues to grow as people find value in the well built historic buildings and locations.

Why does historic preservation help the economy? Many of the reasons relate to the sustainability of working within the built environment, and the fact that historic preservation is sustainable development. Donovan Rypkema, of Place Economics, speaks best to this subject: read one of his presentations here.

In brief, historic preservation is good for your economy because it brings businesses to your community and creates cultural and economic life. Historic preservation work offers tax credits. Historic preservation is sustainable, and thus, a good financial, economic decision. Historic preservation creates jobs. Historic preservation creates heritage tourism, which brings revenue to your community. Here’s a brief fact sheet from the Georgia Trust. And here are economic studies provided by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

This topic can and should continue in greater depth, but it’s important to know that historic preservation is entirely related to economics, and therefore applicable to all of us. It’s good for you and your community.

Preservation works. Preservation makes cents (pun intended). Preservation is good for your economy.

An Urban Beach

What are you planning to do with your last unofficial weekend of summer? Are you spending it on the beach, on some body of water? Not everyone  lives near a beach or someplace with access to usable waterfront. Some they live in a town or area that is landlocked or perhaps in a city that has yet to reclaim its industrial era waterfront land, often land previously used for shipping industries, grain elevators, railroad yards and related structures and infrastructure.

So, imagine you live in a town or city without beach access, with a waterfront that was full of potential. What if you could construct a “beach” for residents? What if that beach had clean sand, beach umbrellas and chairs, but no place for swimming? How does that sound? The concept exists in practice and is known as an “urban beach” or a “city beach.”

The Clock Tower Beach in Montreal, Quebec is such a thing. The waterfront in the Old Port has undergone extensive revitalization and a recent development is this beach. People pay an entrance fee and have access to sand, umbrellas, chairs, misting stations, restrooms, a snack bar and great views of the St. Lawrence River and the Montreal skyline views.

Clock Tower Beach: A manmade urban beach on the river in Montreal, Quebec.

At first the concept struck me as absurd: a beach that is just sand and no swimming? What fun is that? However, it is a unique alternative to additional grassy areas of a park. It’s summer – who wouldn’t want to put their toes in the sand and get some sun next to the water, lying in the sand, as opposed to sunbathing on grass.

The beach is open June – September. I wonder what it’s use will be in the winter. Will the sand be covered? Removed? If this area is only open for a few months out of the year, is that good land use planning?

Clock Tower Beach: Looking the other direction down the St. Lawrence River (nice truss bridge, too).

There is a traditional boardwalk promenade and tree filled grassy park in the Old Port, but this new beach is one of the most unique features. How inspiring to hear of new revitalization efforts thinking outside of the box. And, Toronto already has a beach – designed by the same company. Urban beaches exist in a few places, with only one in the United States listed.  Any others?

What do you think of an urban beach?  Want to visit? Here’s more information.

Preservation Photos #132

Merchants Row in historic downtown Rutland, VT. From Route 7, Rutland looks like strip mall city of Vermont save for the beautiful residences sandwiched in between the sprawl. However, head west from Route 7 to downtown and you’ll see beautiful commercial blocks and a strong effort at economic revitalization. Trust me, walk around downtown Rutland and you’ll be impressed.