Get a Plan…a Historic Preservation Plan

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Historic Building at Dayton VAMC

Historic building at the Dayton VAMC.

By Kathy Martinolich, MHP

Preservation planning—the process of identifying needs, determining priority actions, and developing short- and long-term strategies for the productive future of a historic resource or group of resources —is one of the many preservation-related services CRA offers.  Well-versed in assisting architects, engineers, and planners, CRA brings a nuanced understanding of the complexities of providing for the continued use of significant historic places –which ultimately supports their retention – while maintaining their critical historic integrity. One such project recently completed by CRA was a comprehensive historic preservation plan for a building at the Dayton Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Dayton, Ohio, a National Register of Historic Places-listed historic district that has also been designated as a National Historic Landmark.

Developing a Historic Preservation Plan

The plan, which was completed in anticipation of a remodel of the 1930s-era building, examined the building inside and out, created a detailed report of its current condition, identified significant character-defining features, and made tiered recommendations for current and future treatment of the structure in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.  The Ohio Historic Preservation Office lauded the creation of this plan, saying that it “proved an invaluable resource for this review and should serve as a useful tool in any future efforts at [the building].  We would encourage the VA—and indeed any federal agency—to regularly pursue this extent of documentation.

Preservation Drawing

Historic preservation plans, whether for individual buildings or larger districts, are valuable tools to have on hand for any future development of historic properties.  Preservation plans can be completed at any point, regardless of the status of future projects, and evaluate historic structures as they currently stand.  In addition to examining the current status of a historic building, preservation plans also include research and discussion of the structure’s historic context, identification of important features that define its historic character, and recommendations for the treatment of the building in the future.  These recommendations can range from general to very specific, and discuss not only the current state of the building but future treatment ideas as well. They can be tailored to a specific project, but should be able to function as a form of guidance for all future work on a historic structure.

Dayton VAMC building detail

Window detail of historic building at Dayton VAMC.

Preservation Plan Benefits

Preservation plans aid building owners and developers in identifying which features of their building are most vital to maintaining its historic integrity, and which elements and spaces are more appropriate for modern changes.  They can help a city or Main Street Program determine which historic structures in a district are the best candidates for reuse and rehabilitation, or can assist a Federal agency in determining appropriate actions in renovating historic properties, for example.  A long-term preservation plan for a specific historic resource is a cost- and time-effective way to address the preservation requirements of a project, alleviating the costs associated with project-by-project analyses of the building’s historic character.  When done in advance of major changes, whether remodeling an individual structure or creating a ten-year plan for a larger district, preservation plans can help guide owners, developers, architects, and others toward a direction of growth and change that is sensitive to the historic nature of their property.

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