Thanks to a grant from the PA Historical and Museum Commission, my firm, Community Heritage Partners, has an opportunity to apply our urban design, architectural, preservation, and development skills to help improve the West King Street district of Lancaster, PA -- one of America's most appealing, most successful smaller cities, and largest National Register districts -- with over 14,000 NR listed historic buildings.
Over the coming year, with the grant and matching funds we're raising, we will study and research the West King area between Prince and Mulberry Streets. We'll produce information about the buildings and properties, and use this to create plans that will illustrate opportunities for improving conditions and rebuilding economic, cultural, and social value for these properties.
WE KNOW WE CAN CREATE POSITIVE AND MEANINGFUL CHANGE FOR THIS NEIGHBORHOOD, BUT WE NEED YOUR HELP!
The PA Historical and Museum Commission has endorsed this project with a $25,000 grant, but has challenged us to raise $40,000 in matching funds to access their grant funds. They've extended our deadline to obtain matching funds because they believe in the potential this project creates for the revitalization of such a critically overlooked area of our city. Thus far, we have raised $20,000 from generous private and public donors, but we still need $20,000 to accomplish our goal.
We're confident that, with community “buy in” and a sense of pride for the historical assets around us, we can produce exciting results for the neighborhood. Over the last five years, Community Heritage Partners has invested well over half a million dollars in acquisition and improvement of three West King and West Grant buildings, and we now have some meaningful storefront restoration, interior and exterior improvements to show for it. (Sample pictured here.) In the process we’ve brought seven small businesses to the West King district. We’ve already accomplished a lot, but we know by working together we can do more for West King than we could possibly do on our own. So, we’re now offering our skills to the community to improve other surrounding properties.
Our study work will lay out the challenges and opportunities and define the key steps needed to transform declining older buildings and under-developed open lots into active, revenue-generating properties. Specifically our work will provide the following highlights:
• Floor plans of existing properties and buildings to show what we have to work with in this district;
• Resources, guidelines and expert advice for making affordable repairs and improvements to older and historic buildings;
• Recommendations for new uses and activities that might be developed in the area, based on a market study of downtown;
• Design drawings for existing properties and buildings to show how new uses and activities could be developed into renovation and construction projects;
• Financial analysis to show how these possibilities can be economically feasible, how they might be financed, and how to access that financing.
Our information will be publicly available at no charge, in print and online, so that property improvements and development on West King can become a community-wide commitment.
With your help, we will combine our skills with the unique knowledge and experience of community members to stimulate the development planning and reinvestment process. Working together, we can reinvigorate this neighborhood into a lively hub of economic, social, and cultural activity once again, right here on West King Street.
You can see what we're up to on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WKPAF
Risks and challenges
We have consistently produced award-winning urban development and preservation action plans and solutions for revitalization of historic buildings and communities over the past 30 years. All of these required similar research, documentation, and problem-solving, ranging from Charleston, SC, to Portland, ME, and all sorts of buildings from garages to cathedrals and public market houses. We have also planned and designed many new construction projects and additions to older buildings to fit carefully into historic districts.
It may be challenging to develop the trust of all property owners and stake-holders as we do our work, so we can investigate and advise on improving their properties, creating guidelines, and devising architectural solutions. Some of the project plans may look great, but may not prove economically feasible as we study them. This is just part of the exploration and demonstration process, and presents no real risk. Furthermore, our study work will NOT obligate the community, owners, or tenants to spend money, to comply with any new rules, or to carry out any improvements. We will only be suggesting future possibilities. But, if property owners or independent investors are interested in taking on projects, our work could very well help qualify these projects for public or private financial incentives, improvement programs, grants or preferred borrowing and approval opportunities.
Figuring out how to make urban development economically feasible actually REDUCES risk. This will engage more responsible prospective owners and risk-takers to join in the preservation of the area's assets and rebuilding its future.
The greatest risk is for the community to do nothing; for then, the district's future would be left to short-term, self-interested profit motivations; and these would likely continue to erode and erase the district's cultural heritage of architecture and historic character beyond any opportunity for retrieval, preservation and reinvestment. This would represent an economic as well as a cultural loss for the entire community and region.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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