Historic Preservation

Is Section 106 working for us?

Last semester at NYU’s Urban Design and Architecture major, I had taken part in one of the few remaining classing for the Spring 2012 semester… Case Studies in Historic Preservation. While everyone has their own interests in what should be preserved as to what should be demolished, often times there it is challenging for American citizens to object the ruining of historic district. Unless, the federal government is somehow involved with the building or district.

ACHP Logo

In the post-war era, extreme measures were taken in order to provide the necessary factories, stores, hospitals, schools, that were lacking. This often times included the dissimulation of historic buildings. And so ACHP, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation was formed. From this group of dedicated people willing to fight for protection over these endangered historic sites, a new law was put forth outlining specific guidelines for any development that has any tie in to the federal government or federal groups.

When evaluating the effectiveness of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, it is most effective to examine how the procedures were followed in several different cases. The ACHP has done well in simplifying the motions that are required to ensure a successful Section 106 review, however the concern that arises is how many people will take the opportunity to understand their influence in preserving architecture. In regards to Section 106, it is difficult to give a distinct answer to if the process is working as it was intended and to it’s fullest potential.

Perhaps the problem lies within the lack of familiarity the public has to these processes that could “avoid, minimize or mitigate any adverse effects” on their local historic buildings or districts. While the NHPA has successfully guaranteed the preservation of many significant buildings, it has also failed on numerous occasions when full legal measures were not met in timely manners. Some federal agencies that would choose to neglect to coordinate with the NHPA in order to serve their own agendas plays testament to how frequent searching for loopholes can be. While the argument may be to avoid costs or “lost time”, many projects proposed today place a focus on being economically savvy. The rehabilitation of historic buildings is an effective way of utilizing materials and the popularity of the “green” movement would only attract clientage.

Also to the disadvantage for all these remarkably historic buildings, it may be hard to come by active preservationists. Tedious detailed research is needed for a site to be recognized by the ACHP and placed on the national register.  The problem with this is you will need several different specialists to come and review specific attributes of the building. Which in the end would sacrifice more time and money.

Batavia VA Medical Center, 1940s (Credit: http://thedailynewsonline.com/)

Section 106 is not advertised enough as in the case presented in Batavia, New York. Only half way through the project, the parties involved become aware of the possibility to halt the revamping of their historic buildings and save the Georgian revivals. Section 106 served effective in presenting the opportunity for the Department of Veteran Affairs at Batavia to address the use of land for a proposed new mental facility that initially was to be placed over the demolition site of two historic buildings. Because the buildings were eligible for listing in the National Register for Historic Places, the review proceeded. In this case, Section 106 allowed for a reevaluation of the project and succeeded. But, it is not forgotten that this review was not proposed in a timely matter, so while successful the review was not as efficient as intended.

How to bring more awareness to Section 106 may be a difficult one with so many other issues taking priority but I have hopes that historic preservation will become more imperative as we place a focus on creating a greener environment.

 

Here is a helpful diagram outlining a typical Section 106 Review:

Section 106 Programmatic Agreement Flow Chart (Credit: CA.gov)

 

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