Still, the Viesko House is very minor, it's not a "high style" exemplar, and it is possible to wonder what its designation really accomplished. It's not like we now have a published history of Viesko's building activity. There is no sense of any new historical narrative or analysis that the house instantiates and presents to the wider public.
Mostly it's a private benefit for the owner, who in the case of the Viekso house either flipped it or rented it out, and the designation makes redevelopment less likely.
|Two slides link two processes|
(October Stakeholder Presentation)
|Walkable areas and threats from "traffic and development"|
What this really means is keeping the district so there is always room for my car and my driving and I can walk when I feel like it (recreational walking, not necessarily car-free living).
In fact, the value here is exclusionary and is about protecting incumbency privilege.
|Richmond Addition, May 22nd, 1911|
The "nice neighborhoods" aren't threatened so much by traffic and development as they are by the wrong sort of person. "Nice" functions here in multiple ways, some of them benign, some of them not so innocent. Preservation now bears exclusionary functions in addition to laudable ones.
|Designating not just more buildings, but districts|
|In the October packet was a longer newsletter on new districts|
|Some ingredients to our autoism and carbon pollution,|
53% of which comes from our cars
(via VTPI, Salem notes added)
|The streetcar-era grid from 1917|
is a city-wide resource,
not just a neighborhood resource.
My big idea (first noted here) is that owners who want to demolish a designated or protected property should be able to choose the cost in time or in money. Because of owner-consent law, we can't mandate that an unwilling owner preserve a designated property. Right now, when they do not want to maintain they must choose time: Demolition by neglect or a protracted public process with hoops and red tape. If they were able to choose money, they could quickly secure a demolition permit, but it would need to be expensive enough that they have to think twice about it. The fee would also be big enough to put into the toolbox program to fund rehabilitation and preservation on buildings whose owners really do want to keep them around.
Potentially this better serves owners who really aren't interested in preservation, and better serves owners who really are interested.
In general, we should make the trade off of listing fewer buildings and offering more resources for those we do designate and protect.
And at the end of the day, new historic designation should be for individual resources only, not for whole districts.
After more materials are published, there might be more to say. I happen to believe that all of these are true, and it is not straightforward or trivial to see the right balance:
- We haven't tried hard enough to save some buildings
- There are not enough financial resources to help owners who want to preserve
- Preservation often focuses too much on sight and visual aesthetics, and does not attend sufficiently to function in history and to potential function today
- Preservation laws often have more private benefit than public benefit, especially since the open house tour requirement was dropped
- Preservation has a strange, even ahistorical sense of history that too often freezes in stasis rather than honoring the reality of historical development and change
- Preservation has a huge blind spot for its own autoism and for it itself as an historical artifact of mid- and late-20th century history, especially as it serves exclusionary ends
- We don't have an adequate understanding of Salem and regional history, and preservation efforts can do more with education - old buildings and their stories are useful and a positive good