This country is infamous for ignoring its past. And it's a terrible shame that this is true.
If you walk through the streets of most European cities, you'll find very old buildings that are vital and are being fully utilized. They understand the concept of adaptive re-use, an important concept when it comes to maintaining older, significant buildings.
Adaptive re-use means maintaining as much of a building as possible, while finding a new, appropriate use for it. In many cities, historically significant buildings are being adaptively restored into new lofts and high-rise apartment buildings. Other historically significant buildings are being reused for retail purposes and in some instances, government purposes. But far too often, important buildings are done away with to make way for "revitalization" projects.
In my opinion, revitalization that ignores our past is cheap, insubstantial and insensitive.
As community members, we need to be concerned about what is happening to our historically important buildings. While insignificant buildings may warrant little attention, there are many structures that are historically important and warrant preservation. While it's often easier to knock them down and rebuild, when we do that, we lose part of ourselves. Adaptive reuse is the answer.
Do you know that the federal government has been doing a very good job in preserving its inventory of historically significant buildings? The federal government administers a program called "Legacy Vision." The purpose of the program is to identify which federal buildings warrant protection due to their historic significance. Once those buildings are identified, the government establishes a strategy for maintaining them.
Right now, the government identifies approximately 400 federally owned buildings nationwide that are historically significant. Many of these buildings were constructed before World War II, when the Department of Treasury oversaw the design and construction of our federal buildings. At that time, these buildings were designed by recognized architects to create a strong and powerful image of the federal government.
Many of these buildings were old courthouses, custom houses and other federal installations, which were often at the heart of a city or a community. While today many of these buildings no longer serve their original function, they still have federal tenants and still have significant use.
The federal government understands that these buildings often require substantial re-investment in order to maintain the buildings. Structural integrity, upgrades, and modifications to make buildings commercially competitive, are factors considered by the government for each of these significant structures.
Often, the federal government will lease space to nonfederal tenants to ensure that these buildings are as close to economically self-sustaining as possible. By leasing to nonfederal tenants, the federal government can raise enough funds for needed renovations and system upgrades. In other words, the buildings may pay for themselves.
In certain instances, the government has made deals with private entities, which have purchased these buildings and turned them into residential and retail development. But when that happens, the government attempts to ensure that historically significant features will be maintained.
This is a terrific program that is being undertaken by the federal government. It demonstrates that the federal government recognizes that the buildings are important parts of our national treasure, and that they need to be restored.
We should applaud the federal government for this important initiative. We all have a vested interest in ensuring that the federal government does its very best to preserve our past for generations to come.
And if you are seeking to rent space in an historically significant federal building, you should contact the GSA to determine whether there is availability in your region.