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GaryP

GR HPC

Does the Historic Preservation Committee have too much control of property located within its boundaries?   46 members have voted

  1. 1. Does the Historic Preservation Committee have too much control of property located within its boundaries?

    • Yes
      24
    • No
      18
    • Other
      4

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44 posts in this topic

The Press had an interesting editorial on the Historical Preservation Commission this morning.

http://www.mlive.com/news/grpress/index.ss....xml&coll=6

Historic preservation and economic reality are bumping heads again in Grand Rapids. A homeowner with limited income has run afoul of the city's Historic Preservation Commission with little recourse but to comply with an order to replace a window in her home with a more costly -- but more historically accurate one -- or be charged with a misdemeanor.

Preserving historically significant neighborhoods is important, but so is protecting the interests of the people who live in them. The desire for historical purity must also be measured against other community objectives and the economic reality of many residents who live in older homes.

Though members of local preservation commissions are appointed by local government, they are not answerable to it. Decisions by local preservation commissions can only be appealed to the State Historic Preservation Review Board in Lansing.

The article pretty well sums up my opinion that historical preservation is a great thing and that it has done some wonderful things for Grand Rapids, but the committee

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How about the power of encforcement? Does the HPC have the power to issue jailable offenses? Where is the home owner's due process in the charge if a remedy can not be demonstrated do to economic hardship? Can it be heard in front of a criminal court judge? this is of course a crime.

I've had a little expeirence with the HPC regarding a family member's home in HH, I think it can sometimes be a little overwhelming.

IMHO, if you are to uphold the values of architecture, you should hold true to them. Architecture hosues people, think about the situation first, the architecture second.

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The question is a bit loaded, I think. I don't think the Historic Preservation Commission has "too much"power.

However...

Why can't the Commission provide the funds (or even partial funds) necessary to purchase a historically-correct wooden window? Since the homeowner obviously has her heart in the right place and takes home-ownership seriously, why is she expected to take the whole hit for the cost? There is so much money in this town...spread it around, for cryin' out loud!

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ive often wondered why our heritage hill area doesnt become like historic hoods in charlotte. I think homeowners should be FORCED (new owners, i suppose the old could be grandfathered in) to hold a immensly high standard of care. it could be such a great tourist spot. think about it, the dead of winter on a horse drawn sleigh (or cart) on brick streets through a very old neighborhood. it would be sweet.

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i think its situational for the HPC. in a case like this it seems like they're exerting all the power they can b/c they know they can. i think they could surely use their authority at much better discretion.

keeping buildings historically accurate can be costly, and like zenstyle said, it would be nice to see the HPC use more creative means to deal with situations like this to get their goal accomplished rather then do it our way on your own dime or go to jail.

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ive often wondered why our heritage hill area doesnt become like historic hoods in charlotte. I think homeowners should be FORCED (new owners, i suppose the old could be grandfathered in) to hold a immensly high standard of care. it could be such a great tourist spot. think about it, the dead of winter on a horse drawn sleigh (or cart) on brick streets through a very old neighborhood. it would be sweet.

Yeah, city-mandated gentrification....what a great policy!

:shok:

I know that's not really what you meant, I'm exaggerating for effect.

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ive often wondered why our heritage hill area doesnt become like historic hoods in charlotte. I think homeowners should be FORCED (new owners, i suppose the old could be grandfathered in) to hold a immensly high standard of care. it could be such a great tourist spot. think about it, the dead of winter on a horse drawn sleigh (or cart) on brick streets through a very old neighborhood. it would be sweet.

Do you mean Charleston? Yeah, sweet for you and the other carriage riders, but forget about the people forced out (or charged with a misdemeanor) like the old lady in the story because she can't afford a wood window. I don't think the residents there want it turned into a theme park like Mackinaw Island. There are already a few walking tours and guided tours through Meyer May and Voigt House.

My vote was "other", because sometimes I feel "yes" they exert to much control, and other times I feel that it's worth the headaches.

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I've been pretty outspoken about my feelings on the HPC since I first Joined Urban Planet. In fact I think my very first post was about the HPC. I think they have WAY to much power. I also think that alot of developers who otherwise might, don't even mess with investment in GR, because they don't want to have to deal with the hyperactive politically motivated HPC. I still want to know where they are and why they are so quiet every time one of the local boys tear something down.

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I agree that in this case, the HPC is in the wrong. The window the home owner has installed should be left as is until the homeowner moves out then require the next homeowner to replace the window as part of the purchase agreement.

Here's two solutions to prevent a problem like this from ocurring again.

1. The politically coreect solution.

Maintaining historic homes in a histocically accurate way is very expensive as it requires high end materials with high end prices. The HPC should have all home owners in the Historic District contribute to a common pool that would allow the HPC to atleast cover a part of the cost of maintaining ones historic home. The historic home can be properly and accurately maintained while reducing the sticker shock of such maintainace.

2. The Pollitically incorrect solution.

Begining from a set date, the HPC should have the power to run credit checks on purchasers of homes in the historic district and allow into the district only those with sufficent income levels to easily afford to maintain the home in a historically accurate way.

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I hope when you posted your thoughts on this thread, you all asked yourself how much you know about the Historic Preservation Commission and the Guidelines they follow. Did the story mention if the applicant sought other avenues for assistance such as Home Repair Services or Senior Neighbors?

The area that I live in is close to four historic districts: Heritage Hill, Fairmount Square, Cherry Hill, and Wealthy Theatre. Why only four? I think areas like Eastown, Orchard Hill, and parts of Midtown should be deemed Historic Districts. How do you feel about Conservation Districts?

Our central city neighborhoods, our historic neighborhoods, hold the historical backbone of our city. For as far spread out as the Greater Grand Rapids area is, these areas are true gems for our city.

Tamis6: Please explain how:"maintaining historic homes in a historically accurate way is very expensive as it requires high end materials with high end prices." And to respond to point #2: Nonprofits are here, in GR, to assist homeowners with situations like these.

peace, GRgg

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I agree. Most of the repairs I had to make on a HH home were not costly. I never thought about HRS for a place to go in this situation.

I guess that takes the affordability excuse off the table now -- although I never really seen a lot of windows there. Should the HPC extend their boundries to: West Side, Burton Heights, Roosevelt Park, Cheshire, Baxter etc... now? There is beauty, and historical context in all the neighborhoods that should be protected.

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I think they have WAY to much power. I also think that alot of developers who otherwise might, don't even mess with investment in GR, because they don't want to have to deal with the hyperactive politically motivated HPC. I still want to know where they are and why they are so quiet every time one of the local boys tear something down.

Oh, really MJLO? Heartside doesn't seem to have any development going on it, does it?

I have to laugh every time an HPC thread comes up. It's plainly obvious that most of the people making comments about the HPC and what they do have never had to deal with them in any shape or form.

The HPC is bound for the most part by one simple document. You can even go see an illustrated version of it here, Linky. In a real nutshell it says one simple thing, replace like with like. Nowhere in the documents does it say anything about replacing like with crap. It's a pretty straightforward document.

The HPC is charged with maintaining the aesthetic integrity of the districts that the City has deemed historic. These districts are part of what gives Grand Rapids its sense of place. Look through all of the threads where someone says they are coming to visit Grand Rapids, what's the first thing that most people mention? Don't forget to check out Heritage Hill or the Heartside district. Now, imagine the same conversation without ever having an HPC in place. Go and visit Heritage Hill but don't mind those 4 houses on the left that have been beotchized with vinyl windows and vinyl siding. It doesn't quite sound right does it?

You say they have too much power, I say they don't have enough. Then maybe we could keep some of the buildings around that we all miss or are soon going to miss. Israel's, and Schnitzelbank included. You ask where they are when one of these buildings comes down? I'll tell you that a lot of them are quietly sitting off to the side shedding a tear, wishing they could do more.

Redevelopment in Heartside would be nothing without the power of the historic district. With the delineation of the historic district comes the carrot of the Federal Historic Tax Credits. 20% of all the money developers put into the project, not including purchase price of the building, site work, or additions, comes back to the developer in the form of a tax credit that they can use or sell as equity for the project. Free money???, Yeah, that would probably scare me away too.

Nobody understands the dynamics of what the historic districts mean. Without them Grand Rapids would be 10-15 years behind in development in Heartside. With historic districts come controls in the form of the HPC.

Thank God for the HPC. They are the only guardians we have to preserve the integrity of our historic areas. Most of the business I have is due in large part to the historic districts. I need them to stay intact as much as possible.

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Oh, really MJLO? Heartside doesn't seem to have any development going on it, does it?

I have to laugh every time an HPC thread comes up. It's plainly obvious that most of the people making comments about the HPC and what they do have never had to deal with them in any shape or form.

The HPC is bound for the most part by one simple document. You can even go see an illustrated version of it here, Linky. In a real nutshell it says one simple thing, replace like with like. Nowhere in the documents does it say anything about replacing like with crap. It's a pretty straightforward document.

The HPC is charged with maintaining the aesthetic integrity of the districts that the City has deemed historic. These districts are part of what gives Grand Rapids its sense of place. Look through all of the threads where someone says they are coming to visit Grand Rapids, what's the first thing that most people mention? Don't forget to check out Heritage Hill or the Heartside district. Now, imagine the same conversation without ever having an HPC in place. Go and visit Heritage Hill but don't mind those 4 houses on the left that have been beotchized with vinyl windows and vinyl siding. It doesn't quite sound right does it?

You say they have too much power, I say they don't have enough. Then maybe we could keep some of the buildings around that we all miss or are soon going to miss. Israel's, and Schnitzelbank included. You ask where they are when one of these buildings comes down? I'll tell you that a lot of them are quietly sitting off to the side shedding a tear, wishing they could do more.

Redevelopment in Heartside would be nothing without the power of the historic district. With the delineation of the historic district comes the carrot of the Federal Historic Tax Credits. 20% of all the money developers put into the project, not including purchase price of the building, site work, or additions, comes back to the developer in the form of a tax credit that they can use or sell as equity for the project. Free money???, Yeah, that would probably scare me away too.

Nobody understands the dynamics of what the historic districts mean. Without them Grand Rapids would be 10-15 years behind in development in Heartside. With historic districts come controls in the form of the HPC.

Thank God for the HPC. They are the only guardians we have to preserve the integrity of our historic areas. Most of the business I have is due in large part to the historic districts. I need them to stay intact as much as possible.

Very well said!

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Very well said!

It was very well said, but I would offer one caution outside of the Heritage Hill context (which I think is an easy argument for the HPC). Civilization has been a continuum of building upon the past. Log cabins became wood-frame stores became McKay Tower and so on. Up until the end of WWII, we did a pretty good job of improving a property with each reconstruction. Since then we've built primarily junk.

There was no need for HPC's when we could actually be trusted with replacing an old building with something better. HPC's were created to protect us from our current vinyl siding mentality replacing the old City hall with urban renewal crap (I love it when you write s-h-i-t the program converts it to c-r-a-p - try it.).

However, sometimes an old building can be replaced by something with value beyond its architecture. The Lacks Center at St. Mary's, for instance, is arguably more valuable to the community than the beautiful old building it replaces. St. Mary's, however, had to fight to build that building.

On the other hand, the old Purple East Building on Fulton was less historically significant than the Schnitz, but it took a law suit to tear it down because HPC declared it was historic. I miss Purple east and will miss the Schintz, not because they are historic, but because they are both replaced by surface parking lots. In that regard, I wish HPC had prevailed at least long enough for both those property owners to offer an appropriate replacement for what they were taking down. We got robbed with both of those.

I agree with the Press that there should be an opportunity to appeal the HPC to the City Commission. Sometimes it is appropriate to weigh the cost of preserving history against an opportunity for the future. As long as we get something better in return, I think that's an appropriate conversation to have.

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I am not against the HPC. I agree they are neccessary. I very much appreciate what they do in the heartside and Heritage Hill. I do however get absolutely befuddled by some of the battles they chose to fight. In the instance the press is talking about, I side with them. I feel that homeowners moving into such areas should know what they are getting into. They should know requirements before they make decisions to buy into neighborhoods like HH.

What seems off balance to me, are some of the other fights they have taken on. Civitas mentioned a couple. I personally feel that the buildings in Vandenburg Center are boring as hell and hideous, but according to the HPC, they are a piece in time that we should have preserved in history. I say take a damn picture, put it in some text books, and maybe a "then and now" coffee table book. And be done with them. I'm not sure if anyone 50 years from now, anyone would be sad that they were torn down. There are a few places, that I feel could be better served, if something new were put in it's place. Certainly not a surface lot. Or any more black boxes designed by SOM. I understand they are bound by some kind of mission statement or what have you ( I have not yet peaked at it). But does that cement them into how they function? Are they a bunch of accountants bound by rules, functioning as a robot. Or are they allowed to use common sense when intervening on historys behalf. Again, these are just my personal opinions. They mean very little. I admit to understanding very little about them ( outside of HH and heartside ).

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Do you mean Charleston? Yeah, sweet for you and the other carriage riders, but forget about the people forced out (or charged with a misdemeanor) like the old lady in the story because she can't afford a wood window. I don't think the residents there want it turned into a theme park like Mackinaw Island. There are already a few walking tours and guided tours through Meyer May and Voigt House.

My vote was "other", because sometimes I feel "yes" they exert to much control, and other times I feel that it's worth the headaches.

you must have missed the whole grand fathered in clause which protected that old lady but anyway, you condemn people dt who dont maintain their old buildings, for example: Azzar (i think), but not the old houses, why is that??

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you must have missed the whole grand fathered in clause which protected that old lady but anyway, you condemn people dt who dont maintain their old buildings, for example: Azzar (i think), but not the old houses, why is that??

She did maintain her house (unlike Azzar), just not to HPC standards, and would have been charged with a misdemeanor (possible jail time).

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With my previous job, I assisted the cities historic preservation specialist with attending the HPB (Historic Architectural Review Board in my case). The thing is here they are talking about buildings 80+ years old in most cases, but there (just outside of Philly PA) it was closer to 150 and 200 years old. I think that a lot of people look on HPB way to negatively in these cases. I think that Nitro but it well with the replace like with like, and not like with crap. I think that there have been to many cases there something has been replaced with the cheapest possible just to get it fixed. However that in the long run causes more damage than good. It is not just about preserving the structure, but the neighborhood as a hole. A gorgeous Italianate home may look good, but if you have it next to some hodgepodge of mix-matched styles and materials, it degrades the entire neighborhood.

The income v regulation thing is something that I hear all the time in code enforcement. A person will say

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Tamis6: Please explain how:"maintaining historic homes in a historically accurate way is very expensive as it requires high end materials with high end prices." And to respond to point #2: Nonprofits are here, in GR, to assist homeowners with situations like these.

peace, GRgg

Point 1

Take a trip to your local home center such as Home Depot, Lowe's, etc. and do some pricing on windows. Find a vinyl window and then find a wood window of the dimentions. Compare the prices. I bet that the wooden units are going to be far more expemsive than the vinyl. I say this because I built a room addition off the back of my home two years ago. The design called for 5 windows. I priced some vinyl units which came out to a total od $750 dollors for all five. Then I priced some wooden units which would have driven my costs up to about $1500 dollars. Needeless to say I opted for vinyl.

A historic home is usually a high end home in the first place. Just look around Heritage Hill and other historic places in the city. A basic steel door, run of the mill vinyl siding, stairs made of pressure treated 2 by stock, and yes vinyl windows are not going to cut the mustard when it comes to maintaining the integraty of a historic home's architecture. Would the owner of a Frank Loyd Wright home slap vinyl siding on the home? No! This leaves only building materials such as brick, wooden windows or some other high end window, wooden doors or very high end steel doors with rised panels and light inserts. If the home is something like a Victorian, custom carpentry and expensive meterials such as cedar or redwood is needed. Let's not forget the details here. A historic home is going to need period hardware and fixtures which is more expensive than pain jane equivalants. The costs add up. I live in a average income family and we do a pretty good job with the upkeep of out home because we can afford to do so. Put us in a place like Heritage Hill and we would be fighting a losing war with the HPC, because we would not be able to afford to upkeep the home in a historically accurate way just like the homeowner that can't afford the wooden window.

Point 2

Yes there are non profits to help low income people out. My brother and I painted some houses for Innercity Christian five years ago. However, unless I'm missing somthing or the GR Press left somthing out from the article the original poster of this thread hyperlinked to, I saw no mention that the HPC refered the homeowner to any of these non-profits to get help. My impression is that the HPC saw that vinyl window, came downed on the homwowner and said, "Replace the window with a historically accurate one or we're hauling your carcass into a courtroom." There were no "and's", "if's", or "but's".

Granted I know that any HPC is there to keep the history alive for the next generation which is a good thing. We don't need any Haritage Hills out there plowed under to make way for a Wal-Mart or more mindless 'burb style housing. But there is such a thing as "A man's home is his Castle" as well. So there needs to be a happy medium between the HPC and the homeowner.

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Please keep in mind that the HPC does not legislate. The HPC administers and interprets standards. These standards are in the form of Local Guidelines and the Federal Secretary of Interior Standards.

The local standards have been approved by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) AND the Grand Rapids City Commission.

The Secretary of Interior Standards have been approved at the Federal level.

Local, State and Federal governments have reviewed, commented and approved all of the standards which govern the local historic districts and the local historic landmarks.

These standards have been in place for decades and as a result of them, the historic resources which they protect have enjoyed a renaissance in their preservation and value.

The Heritage Hill district has been around since 1973. Cherry Hill since 1994, Wealthy Theater District 1997, Fairmount Square 1999 and the 74 Historic Landmarks have been gradually added from 1973 to present.

Below is a partial copy of the standards which are appropriate to this discussion. A full copy of the local guidelines is at the city's website.

LOCAL GUIDELINES

Recommended:

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Does the HPC have too much power? How about rephrasing that and asking yourself if the Grand Rapids Press has too much power? The reporters and editors can sit in their ivory tower and spew this one sided unresearched non-sense without anyone questioning them. They can continuely miss their mark without being called out. They can pick on a story like this and spend all this time talking about an ILLEGAL vinyl window, and miss all the other more pertinent stuff that is going on.

Why aren't they writing editorials about the mayor wanting to change the city charter regarding the city commission meeting schedule, reducing it to one meeting a month and taking away the public process. Why aren't they questioning the riverfront property fiasco, in which three developers played by the city rules and were asked to sit and wait for yet another RFP, and why aren't they looking into what is going on with the property at the corner of Cherry and Division.

I wondered about this as well. I dont think I've ever seen a positive article out of the Press for the HPC. Does someone have a bone to pick? For the record, I still think charging this woman with a crime for installing the wrong window is ridiculous.

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I think its because the Press leans more so to deregulation then any thing.

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GR Town Planner's lengthy reply does have a a couple of good points esp. about the GR Press. If it were not for all the HPC's out there, every historic building on the planet would be replaced by more sprawl. However, that does not justify the HPC's treatment of the low income owner. If the HPC knew that the homeowner could not afford the wooden window they insisted upon, then they should have helped by atleast having a little drive among the neighborhood to rise the funds needed to buy and install the window or refering her to a non-profit that could help her out instead of threatening her with mistemeanor charges. That's the point that's trying to be made.

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I bought a house in Heritage Hill recently and I am thankful that there are guidelines for what my neighbors can and cannot do to their property. It is so inspiring to see my neighbors diligently restoring their homes to beautiful pieces of architecture. It really saddens me when some people choose to renovate these homes cheaply only to make a quick buck. If the HPC starts allowing vinyl windows or anything else against current guidelines, where do they draw the line?

The reality is these historic districts are becoming more desirable places to live because of their good housing stock and close proximity to downtown. It is more important than ever to continue to preserve these neighborhoods so they don't become lost in the monotony.

Look at what is happening in EGR. More and more houses are being remodeled or torn down and replaced with some really strange stuff. Now there is a city that needs some tougher guidelines!

ross.jpg

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I rent in Heritage Hill. Have been back in the neighborhood 4 years now and thank God for the HPC. 15 years ago when I was first out of college with a very low income, I rented a studio in the Hill for many years. After living in Oklahoma and traveling the country installing computer systems for several years, I came back to Michigan, I had to go back to Heritage Hill - I didn't even consider anywhere else. It's the best neighborhood in the USA in my opinion. There are many other lovely historic districts such as Charleston and the painted lady district in San Francisco. However, Heritage Hill offers such a diverse range of price points that a single person such as myself on a relatively modest income can afford a cool, safe place to live. It's not even just the lovely houses, but the people in the neighborhood - up through Cherry Hill, Fulton & Diamond area, all the way into Eastown that really make it funky and fun.

For those of you too young to remember, the whole district was almost plowed down in the 70's to make way for those lovely public housing projects like the ones up on Lafayette and Leonard.

As far as a tourist destination, they do offer walking tours and I often have horse and buggies clip clopping by the house bringing tourists and wedding parties from downtown - I presume the Amway.

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