Pennsylvania Historic Preservation

Blog of the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Office

Pennsylvania’s Preservation Delegation

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It’s almost spring in Washington, D.C. and for us here at the PA SHPO it doesn’t mean cherry blossoms – it means Advocacy Week!  Next week, Pennsylvania’s Preservation Delegation heads south to talk about one of our favorite topics (historic preservation!) in a fresh new way (with videos!) and we are ready to go.

For the past several years, preservationists from the PA SHPO, Preservation PA, and elsewhere have made the trip down to our nation’s capitol to network with SHPOs from around the country and meet with some of Pennsylvania’s Representatives and Senators to talk about the value of the federal historic preservation program in the Commonwealth.

(from left) Mindy Crawford, Shelby Splain, Andrea MacDonald, and Scott Doyle took a minute to get a photo in front of the Capitol, at Advocacy Week 2016.

Advocacy Week is organized by Preservation Action and the National Council of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO) and is held every year in mid-March.  This year, PA SHPO-ers Andrea MacDonald, Scott Doyle, and Shelby Splain will be joined by Pennsylvania’s Historic Preservation Board chair Suzanna Barucco, Preservation Pennsylvania’s board chair Peter Benton, and a few others to walk the halls of Capitol Hill.

Why is this an important thing to do?

Preservation Action says it best: Advocacy Week is our annual opportunity to have a mass impact on opinion leaders and policy makers – together with a cohesive message in support of preservation-positive legislation.   We talk with Pennsylvania’s legislators or their staff about the importance of all of the federal preservation programs – outlined in the National Historic Preservation Act – that we administer in partnership with the National Park Service and the need to have a fully-funded Historic Preservation Fund to financially support those programs.

The former Pittsburgh Brass building was rehabilitated using the historic tax credit program.

This year we will provide a renewed focus on one program in particular.  As tax reform is near the top of the agenda for the 115th Congress, it is critical to share with Pennsylvania’s leadership in Washington that the historic tax credit program is one of the most utilized tools for community and economic redevelopment of Pennsylvania’s older communities.  There are currently over 80 active projects with over $800 of proposed construction costs in the works; when complete, these will add to Pennsylvania’s growing list of the thousands of historic tax credit projects that have generated over a billion (yes, billion!) in economic investment in Pennsylvania’s economy.

The loss of the federal historic tax credit program would be devastating.  Historic buildings would be vulnerable to demolish or unsympathetic reuse, communities would miss an opportunity for economic investment and neighborhoods would begin to lose their character.  We realized that we had to be smarter and savvier this year to get our point across.

How are we going to do that?

Last year, we delivered personalized folders to every Congressional district office (we have 18 in PA) and to both Senators.  This included the newly-minted “Your Guide to the Federal Programs of the PA SHPO,” data sheets about federal historic preservation activity in each district, and informational handouts for key issues like the re-authorizing the Historic Preservation Fund and fully funding it.  If you’d like to take a look at the information sheets we’ll be using this year, check out Preservation Action’s library of one-pagers.

The former Kahn Warehouse on filming day in February.

As part of the materials the PA SHPO brings to Preservation Advocacy Week this year, we decided to go big: video testimonials from real-life developers talking about how important the historic tax credit program is.  Scott Doyle (PA SHPO) and Sean Adkins (PHMC) traveled to Philadelphia and Scranton to talk with local property developers about the value of the federal historic tax credit to their projects and of the buildings to their communities.

The former North Scranton Jr. High School was rehabilitated into the Gerald T. Langan Apartments for the area’s senior citizens.  Photo courtesy of Rachel Alan Photo.

Using only an iPhone, tripod, and his editing skills, Sean Adkins was able to transform the interviews into short testimonials for the former Kahn Warehouse in the Brewerytown section of Philadelphia and the former North Scranton Jr. High School in Scranton, Lackawanna County.  We extend a huge thank you to David Waxman from MMPartners (Kahn Warehouse), Gerry Langan from Goodwill North (North Scranton), and Cindy Hamilton from Heritage Consulting Group for taking the time and interest in helping us pull this off.

I highly recommend taking five minutes to watch these testimonials on PHMC’s YouTube channel – and I hope they inspire you to share them far and wide.

Any suggestions?

We are so excited about this new way of spreading our preservation message that we want to highlight more of Pennsylvania’s preservation success stories.  Do you know of an organization or project that used one of Pennsylvania’s state or federal historic preservation programs for a positive preservation outcome?  I’d love to hear about it!

Author: Shelby Weaver Splain

Shelby Weaver Splain is the Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office. Shelby is a native of Bucks County and holds a Masters degree in Historic Preservation Planning from Cornell University and a Bachelor of Arts with Honors in Historic Preservation from Goucher College.

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