Columbia residents discuss historic preservation

Tuesday, April 29, 2008 | 10:51 p.m. CDT; updated 6:29 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

COLUMBIA — A group of Columbia residents and other officials gathered in the City Council chambers Tuesday night to discuss the issue of preservation in Missouri. The meeting was the last of six held across the state by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources State Historic Preservation Office to seek input for a statewide preservation plan that will go into effect from 2009 through 2013.

“So far the biggest concern has been education about the benefits of historical preservation and to educate the general public, neighborhoods and elected officials,” said JoAnn Radetic, certified local government coordinator for the State Historic Preservation. “The second biggest concern has been tax credits.”

People at the meeting had an opportunity to discuss their concerns. The meeting was organized by making a list of assets and concerns based on current issues related to state preservation. The crowd then ranked their top three concerns and assets. Afterward, the State Historic Preservation Office staff and people attending the meeting made a list of solutions.

Although education on preservation was the top priority for people in the past five meetings across the state, “tax credits not being able to keep up with economic demand” was listed as the number one concern Tuesday evening.

Many people at the meeting pushed for more funding for the State Historic Preservation Office and tax incentives for renovations involving preservation. Sixth Ward city councilwoman Barbara Hoppe had her own idea on how to diversify spending on preservation. Hoppe suggested using a certain percentage of funds available from current programs to preserve historic sites in Missouri.

“You take a variety of programs that have funds available, that have a historic focus, so you can get more funds to get more preservation,” Hoppe said.

Hoppe used the example of using funds for energy efficiency to target historic buildings.

Radetic said that one thing the preservation office noticed during their trips to the other five areas of the state was that these places were putting more emphasis on educating individuals, neighborhoods and government officials about preservation.

Barbara Fitzgerald, executive director of Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation, said she’s noticed the public has already become more knowledgeable.

“The public has become more knowledgeable about historic preservation and realizes that it can produce economic development,” Fitzgerald said. “Just from what I have seen, the general public is more responsive to environmental, economic and community growth concerns.”

The State Historic Preservation Office is required to prepare a statewide plan for the National Park Service every five years. The goal of visiting six locations in Missouri is to get an idea of the needs of various locations all over the state.

“We will be synthesizing this information into a draft of our new statement preservation plan and that information will be put on our Web site, which we will get feedback on so we can make a final draft to submit to the National Park Service,” said Mark Miles, director of the State Historic Preservation Office.

Miller said he felt the Columbia meeting resulted in the discussion of issues important for both Columbia and Missouri.

“What I think came out of this meeting were some state-wide issues,” Miller said. “But local issues also came out of this meeting. If preservation is going to succeed it has to succeed on a local level.”

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