Updated: Nov 24, 2021
Six organizations are receiving grants from the Moe Family Fund for Statewide and Local Partners to support innovative projects that address key challenges facing the historic preservation movement. Established by former National Trust President Richard Moe and his family, the Moe Family Fund accepts applications from current dues-paying members of the National Preservation Partners Network (NPPN). For 2021 and 2022, grant proposals must address one of four preservation priorities:
Affordable housing and density
Diversity, inclusion, and racial justice
Preservation trades and workforce development
Sustainability and climate action.
These four priority topics were selected by the Preservation Priorities Task Force (PPTF), a collaboration between NPPN and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Working groups made up of NPPN members, National Trust Advisors, National Trust staff, and others have organized around each of the four priorities to develop practical tools and resources for preservation advocates.
The first group of new resources from the PPTF was released last month: a set of four Issue Briefs summarizing key challenges and opportunities related to each of the preservation priorities. This year’s recipients of Moe Family Fund grants are developing innovative ways to apply the power of preservation to some of the most difficult challenges we face today.
Housing and Density
As noted in the Issue Brief developed by the PPTF Housing and Density working group, preservation is often cast as a barrier to increasing housing supply in policy debates. How can we accommodate more housing in historic districts? Is there a smart way to achieve “density without demolition?” Phoenix experienced a net gain of more than 80,000 new residents last year. Can the city’s older and historic neighborhoods, which consist mostly of single-family residences, make room for new development? The Arizona Preservation Foundation will use a Moe Family Fund grant to explore how to add “gentle density” in Phoenix’s downtown area historic districts by making it easier to construct accessory dwelling units (also known as ADUs). Foundation President Jim McPherson is hopeful that this study will result in a new policy approach that can be applied elsewhere. “We hope the study findings will be replicated in other historic neighborhoods in Phoenix and other Arizona cities and towns,” he said.
Diversity, Inclusion, and Racial Justice
Many preservation organizations are working to address histories of racism and inequitable development in their communities. In some cases, however, traditional preservation practices such as historic surveys and designations do not align with community conditions and needs. One of the challenges identified in the Issue Brief developed by the Diversity, Inclusion, and Racial Justice working group is an over-emphasis on architectural significance and physical integrity when assessing the eligibility of properties for historic designation. A Moe Family Fund grant to Preservation Buffalo Niagara (PBN) will support a community-led historic context study for the city’s East Side neighborhood, a primarily Black community that has been severely impacted by redlining and racialized disinvestment. Guided by a steering committee of neighborhood leaders and local professional historians, the project will use a community history approach, training area residents to gather oral histories and identify aspects of local history that archival sources do not always capture. PBN Executive Director Jessie Fisher believes that this project will help “ensure that preservation in Buffalo is centered on the places of high value to our entire diverse community, not just on places of high architectural style that may be identified in a traditional visual survey.”
Preservation Trades and Workforce Development
For decades, preservationists have lamented the lack of skilled workers available for rehabilitation projects. The Issue Brief prepared by the Preservation Trades and Workforce Development working group explains that addressing this shortage would not only help make rehabilitation projects more feasible—it would also create career opportunities in communities where new jobs are needed most.
Moe Family Fund grants will support two preservation trades projects this year. The Providence Preservation Society (PPS) in Providence, Rhode Island, is developing a “Community Shop for Preservation Trades” that will provide affordable space for local artisans, encourage peer-to-peer exchange, and offer classes and training programs. PPS Executive Director Brent Runyon believes this shop will “help democratize preservation in greater Providence by serving as a home base for a community of rehabbers and as a place for serious artisans to grow their businesses.” In developing this concept, PPS looked at examples of other urban workshops in places such as Burlington, Vermont, and New York City.
Learning from others is the goal of another trades-focused Moe Family Fund grant this year. The Preservation League of New York State applied for a grant on behalf of a four-state coalition that includes the Preservation Trust of Vermont, the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance, and Maine Preservation. Each of these states has seen job losses in the forest products industry in recent years. Grant funds will support the creation of a regional strategy to develop employment opportunities in the preservation trades, particularly in rural areas. The partners in the Northeast Regional Initiative for the Preservation Trades will use this study to attract funding and additional partners.
Sustainability and Climate Action
Preservationists often find themselves trying to make the case that older buildings are assets, not liabilities, in our work to address climate change. The Issue Brief developed by the Sustainability and Climate Action working group highlights the need for communication tools, policies, and case studies to connect historic preservation and climate action. Two projects receiving Moe Family Fund grants are designed to help preservationists show how reusing and retrofitting older buildings can reduce carbon emissions.
The Boston Preservation Alliance (BPA) is sponsoring development of a web-based platform for a new “2Build or not 2Build” carbon calculator. This tool allows users to compare the embodied, operating, and avoided carbon impacts of reusing and upgrading an existing building compared to either leaving it alone or replacing it with a new structure. BPA Executive Director Greg Galer sees this as a powerful advocacy tool that he hopes will be useful for preservationists across the country. “As preservationists we know that the greenest building is the one that already exists, but the carbon calculator will help convince skeptics with concrete numbers,” he said. Another project receiving grant support from the Moe Family Fund will show how even the oldest historic buildings can serve as models of sustainability. Cornerstones Community Partnerships, based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is leading work to install solar panels on the c. 1610 San Miguel Chapel, located in the heart of Santa Fe’s historic district and believed to be the oldest church in the nation. Cornerstones will create an exhibit and educational campaign about the installation as “an example of ways in which solar energy can be adapted to landmark historic structures without compromise to their character and designation,” said Executive Director Tracey Enright.
Information about National Trust grant opportunities are available on Preservation Leadership Forum. To learn more about the Preservation Priorities Task Force, visit preservationpriorities.org. If you are interested in joining a PPTF working group, please contact Jim Lindberg at the National Trust or Rebecca Harris at NPPN.
Jim Lindberg is senior policy director at the National Trust and member of the Preservation Priorities Task Force Steering Committee.
Photo credit: Arizona Republic