Together At Last - Hazard Mitigation and Historic Preservation

Conference Season is in full swing and VPC is making a lasting impression on attendees interested in historic preservation. Deepa Srinivasan, President of Vision Planning and Consulting (VPC) presented at the 2018 PA Downtown Conference in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

The topic of VPC’s presentation at the Pennsylvania Downtown Center 2018 Conference, was “Hitting Two Birds with One Stone: Hazard Mitigation and Historic Preservation – How to Preserve and Protect.”

What happens when we cannot move or modify a building to protect it from disaster? This is the case for many State and Nationally listed historic properties. Modifications that alter original features, materials, or locations, put properties at risk of losing their historic designation. How then, do we protect these resources? Are Mitigation and Preservation both possible? Is it better to alter a building’s character-defining features and protect it than to risk losing it entirely?

Ms. Srinivasan's presentation discussed: the need for such projects: an overview of the recently completed Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office’s (PA SHPO) Phase II of the Disaster Planning for Historic Properties Initiative in four counties across the Commonwealth; the hazard analysis methodology; project findings; and the challenges of undertaking such a coordinated approach to hazard mitigation and historic preservation.

“Historic properties are just as at risk to natural disasters as other properties, perhaps even more so, as there are fewer options for mitigation while maintaining the integrity of these historic properties. Our goal is to develop implementable solutions for historic property owners, that won’t affect their property’s historic status or designation” Ms. Srinivasan explains.

READ MORE  VPC Presents at the 2018 Pennsylvania Floodplain Managers Annual Conference

Attendees from Pennsylvania Main Streets, Elm Streets, and other downtown associations were attentive and engaged throughout the presentation and raised valid concerns about property eligibility and funding. Questions focused around the laws and regulations regarding modifications to listed or eligible historic properties, and potential funding sources for such projects. Ms. Srinivasan provided a brief explanation and informed conference-goers of the valuable resources provided in the Phase II Disaster Planning for Historic Properties Initiative Four-County Study. Ms. Srinivasan stated, “The Pilot Study includes federal, state and local regulations for properties to maintain their eligibility, as well as potential funding sources (federal, state, and private) for preservation and mitigation projects.”

Additional resources for property owners provided in the Pilot study include: an easy to follow architectural field guide for identifying common building styles; a master list of mitigation actions and the key architectural features each action protects; sample historic property evaluations; and a list of additional resources which provide best practices from historic preservation and hazard mitigation projects around the country.

VPC will be presenting at the Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM) conference in Phoenix, Arizona on 21 June at 10:30am. Stay tuned for more updates as VPC will be highlighting the flood analysis and methodology portions of the PA SHPO project, and discussing sea-level rise challenges faced in a similar mitigation/preservation project in Talbot County, Maryland.

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