Registration is now open for FORUM 2014, July 16-20, in Philadelphia. FORUM is the title for this year’s Statewide Conference on Heritage/Byways to the Past, which has teamed up with the National Alliance of Preservation Commission’s biennial training program for a jam-packed week of workshops, tours, and sessions. Whether you’re a perennial attendee of the Pennsylvania Statewide Conference, or a first-timer, a planner, architect, archaeologist, historical commission or HARB member, elected official, or consultant the combination of these two events in a single place is a training and networking opportunity not to be missed!
So why would the Statewide Conference pair up with the National Alliance for Preservation Commissions (NAPC) for a joint conference? The simple answer is that there’s strength in numbers and something special happens when you get a lot of people with similar interests and passions together in the same place. The more subtle answer is that these are two events with complimentary audiences and goals, and each partner brings something special to the program. Pennsylvania has hundreds of Historic Architectural Review Boards and Historical Commissions that will benefit from the training programs and speakers that NAPC offers at every FORUM. PennDOT and Preservation Pennsylvania, the sponsors of the Statewide Conference interact with community organizations, local governments, and individuals in a variety of ways all the time, and this joint venture is a chance to offer programming that reaches those audiences. Professional and public sector attendees will find educational offerings that explore common issues from new perspectives with fresh presenters from across the country, with numerous sessions qualifying for AICP and AIA continuing education credits.
A Few Program Highlights
The program for this year’s conference is practically bursting at the seams and while there’s no official theme there are tracks of programs that appeal to a variety of interests and experience levels. Here are just a few of the highlights:
- Disaster Planning and Response – SuperStorm Sandy was a major wake-up call for East Coast communities, but being prepared for floods, storms, and other types of disasters is something every community should take seriously. The National Park Service and other partners have organized several sessions intended to share best practices for integrating preservation interests into disaster planning and response procedures.
Historic Religious Properties – Religious properties pose vexing problems for commissions, municipalities, and professionals. In some communities the challenge is the growing number of closed churches, in others it’s the lack of financial capacity to maintain aging houses of workshop. Partners for Sacred Places has helped prepare a slate of programs that explored the multifaceted nature of these challenges to shed light on the struggles and opportunities available to congregations and communities.
- Technical Advice – If you’re looking for information about alternative materials, evaluating alterations to historic buildings, or common repair projects, there’s options on the program for you too.
- Fundamentals – Maybe you’re looking to brush up on some foundational skills and issues? On Thursday NAPC will be offering the ever-popular Commission Short Course, a day-long soup-to-nuts style boot camp that covers the core skills that commissioners need to do their work effectively. If you’re the Chair or Vice-Chair of your commission, attend the Commission Chair Training to learn how to lead effective meetings and keep the commission running smoothly. There are also sessions on developing and using design guidelines, effective advocacy, and how to understand the design features of mid-century commercial buildings.
- Local participation in Section 106 consultation – While the primary functions of many commissions are designation and design review, when a project involving Federal (and often state) funding or permits comes to town, you are often tasked with participating in the Section 106 consultation process. What do you need to know about your role? How do you effectively advocate for the historic resources?
Location, Location, Location…
FORUM 2014 will be headquartered in the University City neighborhood of Philadelphia. Located just across the Schuylkill River from Center City, University City is home to the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, and the University of the Sciences. This neighborhood has experienced a true renaissance over the past decade and today is home to great restaurants (including two owned by Iron Chef Jose Garces), iconic architecture (both historic and contemporary), and local shopping. What makes this part of the City an ideal location for FORUM is that it’s set apart from the hustle and bustle of Center City, but is an easy walk, cab, or public transit ride to all of the hot spots and nightlife downtown.
While University City may be an ideal location for most conference activities, there’s a big City, and an even bigger region out there for you to experience. There are behind-the-scenes tours of Independence National Historical Park, hands-on workshops at The Woodlands, a National Historic Landmark, a bus tour of landmark bridges in the City, a visit to an artifact exhibit along I-95, a day-long excursion to rural Chester County, a tour of southern New Jersey, a bike tour of Fairmount Park, a trip to some of Philadelphia’s inner-ring suburbs in neighboring Delaware County, and a treasure hunt through Center City, Chinatown, and Old City. Are you tired yet?
Many of our special events will be held in iconic buildings throughout the City. On Friday afternoon we’ll gather together at the c. 1865 Arch Street United Methodist Church for the Opening Forum. The Roll Call of the States will be followed by a discussion panel exploring the meaning of preservation in the 21st century and how we might be tasked to consider changes to the language, tools, and policies we use to carry out preservation at the local level in the future. Following that, it’s off to the Reading Terminal Market for some after-hours food and drink in one of Philadelphia’s landmark public spaces. Market vendors will prepare local delicacies for you to graze on as you wander the 1892 building, shop at some of the market stalls, and listen to a Mummer’s String Band before heading out on the town.
A Lot More
There’s a lot more happening at FORUM that you’re just going to have to check out on your own. Head over to the conference website and register now. Our Local, state, and national partners have put together a great program and incredible opportunities – now all we’re waiting for is you. Don’t wait – register now (Early Bird discounts end June 6) and we’ll see you in Philadelphia!
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