Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Industrial building preservation article from the Seattle Times

When it rains it pours. The fabulous Sunday Magazine from the Seattle Times, Pacific Northwest Magazine, has a cover story, "Seattle's historic industrial buildings serve and support'" on the preservation of industrial buildings in Seattle and their contribution to the city's revitalization.

From the article:

BEAUTIFUL BUILDINGS that have architectural significance are easy to recognize. It's tougher to look into the grit and muscle of a region's infrastructure and appreciate the landmarks that do the everyday work of building and supporting our way of life.

To put these in the spotlight, as program director of Historic Seattle, in 2006 I started offering opportunities to explore some of these industrial and engineering wonders.

When we started our Preserving Utility tours, I had no idea how popular they would be. ... I've also come to understand that by having direct contact with the manufacturing processes, the materials and the machinery that create our buildings, city roads and marine-highway systems, we truly do develop new appreciation for the built environment and a greater commitment to preserve it.

Only recently have industrial buildings and sites been regarded as historically or architecturally significant. Their general invisibility makes it much tougher to champion them when they become obsolete or simply outdated, or happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Always, their worthiness is tested. And often, they don't have the chorus of community supporters to vouch for their value. As a result, some have been razed without much thought. Fortunately, others have been turned around, luring a younger generation to gentrify factories and warehouses in the rough-edged working areas of Seattle, Tacoma and Portland.

I guess I have some of the same appreciation for similar kinds of buildings, having been one of the leaders of the successful effort to designate the Uline Arena, and working against urban renewal plans for the Florida Market. Even favoring bring back streetcars has to do with industrial preservation (see the past blog entry "Adding cultural heritage dimensions and expanded service capabilities within commercial districts to DC Streetcar planning").

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