Small cities struggle with historic preservation efforts

[Source: John Yantis, AZ Republic] – The wrecking ball often swings faster in smaller cities trying to save history, preservationists and local leaders say. Money, know-how, constantly changing priorities and new residents with shallow roots in the community often hinder efforts to protect historic architecture and cultural sites. The dilemma leaves longtime residents disappointed and frustrates efforts to save local landmarks.

In June, former students failed to save an auditorium-turned gymnasium in Litchfield Park. Constructed in 1928, the gym was a reminder of the city’s early days. A month later, Buckeye officials voted to demolish a cotton gin that was also built in 1928. After the decision, a town councilman wondered aloud why Buckeye bothers to advertise its historic past. “The gin is just a rusty building,” said Councilman Robert Garza, a fifth-generation native of Buckeye. “But it is part of our heritage.”

Preservation can present challenges in larger cities, too. In Mesa, organized efforts to save historic sites began in the mid-1990s, but advocates said they only came after the city lost numerous noteworthy buildings, including a social hall, park and school.

Impediments to saving history in smaller cities are usually more acute. They often start too late. “It can happen at all different levels, but I think small communities haven’t spent a lot (of) time inventorying,” said James Garrison, state historic-preservation officer.

“They’re interested in growth and new things and attracting businesses and doing all these things and often don’t take a look around at what might fit a new use or be available for adaptive reuse.” Adaptive reuse is a process that allows older buildings to be used for new purposes while retaining their historic features.

Many large cities have preservation officers and commissions that allow experts to plan and look for properties that could become endangered, Garrison said. Smaller towns’ historic sites often go vacant, which escalates the cost to fix them up. Buildings left empty deteriorate quickly and are often vandalized. Also, often there is little practical discussion about what they will be used for. Every property can’t become a museum, but these sites still need an active life in the community, Garrison said.

Financial challenges – Preservation efforts in Arizona were recently complicated after a state-funding source dried up. In 2010, the governor and state Legislature stripped a portion of Arizona’s Heritage Fund that provided $1.5 million in grants for cities to find, preserve, stabilize and rehabilitate buildings and other historic sites. The fund was made up of lottery proceeds approved by voters in 1990.

The Arizona Heritage Alliance and others are working to restore the fund, which is administered by the Arizona State Parks Board. The Arizona Preservation Foundation, a group of volunteer preservation advocates, did not gather enough signatures to get the issue on the November ballot. They plan to get the issue on the ballot in 2014.

As public money for preservation becomes more scarce, some cities have unsuccessfully tried to find private financing. In Goodyear, a years-long effort to restore the Litchfield Train Station is taking a new direction after backers had difficulty raising enough money through raffles and car and train shows. Members of the city’s Centennial Commission decided in May to form a non-profit foundation, said Wally Campbell, a city councilwoman who serves on the board. Supporters hope the foundation will qualify for grants. Someday, foundation officials hope it will be part of a train park for children. “We’re excited about it, but we’re moving forward slowly,” Campbell said. The 1,900-square-foot station was built in the 1920s by the Southern Pacific Railroad. In 2009, the city moved the depot 3 miles from its original location, to an area near the intersection of Cotton Lane and Maricopa 85.

Ever-changing plans – In Buckeye, evolving city plans have frustrated historic-preservation efforts. For years, informal town plans called for turning the Eastman Gin into a museum and downtown gateway to showcase the area’s agricultural heritage. Town officials spent more than $2 million to buy the gin and surrounding property. In the end, renovating the landmark, which was once used to separate cotton from its seeds, was too costly. Demolition is expected to begin in early September. For Garza, it was the latest example of shifting priorities. “It’s hard because Buckeye went through a giant boom, and we had a big influx of people from outside,” he said. “They didn’t necessarily see what we saw in our community, in our history, in our culture.”

Successful saves – Jim McPherson, president of the Arizona Preservation Foundation, says there is greater awareness about the importance of historic preservation in smaller cities. Officials and the public are more focused on sustainability and adapting buildings to be reused, he said. Old Main, a 90-year-old vacant building on Peoria High’s campus, will be saved. About $1.6 million will be spent to save the building.

Phoenix has used bond money to renovate many historic structures, McPherson said.

And earlier this month, Litchfield Park struck a deal with the school district that will ensure the protection of a mission-style church built in the early 1920s. Unfortunately, some historic sites in small towns can’t be saved, McPherson said. “We hurt every time that happens because that’s one more strike against our heritage in a state that’s relatively new,” McPherson said.

Committee’s goal is to restore Heritage Fund

[Source: Tri Valley Central.com, Special to the Florence Reminder] – Arizona community leaders have announced the formation of a political committee, Restore the Voters’ Heritage Fund, to seek voter approval of a ballot referendum designed to support the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund in acquiring and preserving recreational and historical assets across the state. The measure, which would go before the voters in the Nov. 2012 election, is now being considered by the Arizona Legislature.

HCR2047, sponsored by Representative Russ Jones (R-Yuma) and cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 17 members of the House, would place a referendum on the November ballot seeking voter approval for the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund.

“Pristine areas that represent the varied vistas, flora, and fauna found throughout Arizona, along with many important fragile sites, represent the heart and soul of our state,” Jones said. “It is particularly important now, as Arizona celebrates its Centennial, that we rededicate ourselves to the preservation of our historical roots and spectacular vistas.”

The Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund was initially established in 1990 following the passage of a citizen-approved ballot measure. As a result of the recent recession, however, the Legislature chose to redirect the dollars and remove that Fund from statute in order to close budget gaps.

HCR2047 has already passed its first hurdle, gaining the unanimous 9-0 vote of the House Agriculture and Water Committee.

“In celebration of Arizona’s centennial there is nothing we could do that is more significant than to restore the one major tool our state has for preserving our special places,” said Phoenix lawyer Grady Gammage Jr., chairman of the committee that will seek voter support for the referendum this fall.

Richard H. Dozer, chairman of GenSpring Family Office – Phoenix and former president of the Arizona Diamondbacks, is serving as treasurer of the committee. Looking back, he reflects, “The Heritage Fund has supported parks, trails, open space, jobs, and a better economy for Arizona in the past. We need it fully restored so that it continues that important work of preserving our rich history, beautiful landscapes, and our childrens’ strong minds and bodies. That is why I have agreed to support this campaign.”

One supporter of the restoration effort is Vicki Kilvinger, mayor of Florence. “From 1991 to 2006, Florence received a total of 18 grants totaling $1.5 million dollars, which was matched by the same amount for a total of over $3 million dollars,” said Kilvinger. “Our community and others across the state have been able to rehabilitate historic buildings utilizing the Fund. Passage of the referendum would reestablish a program that would create jobs in this difficult economy and also save historic properties, build parks, and contribute to a higher quality of life for our residents.”

According to Beth Woodin, president of the Arizona Heritage Alliance, a new coalition will support and lead the referendum campaign. “Already thousands of activists who have supported the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund in years past are ready to hit the ground running. It is expected that many other individuals and organizations will join this important cause for a better Arizona. It is time to restore the voters’ Heritage Fund.”

Political Committee Formed to Secure Passage of the Arizona Heritage Fund Ballot Referendum via HCR 2047 currently working its way through the Arizona House of Representatives

PHOENIX, Arizona (February 23, 2012) – Today, Arizona community leaders announced the formation of a political committee, Restore the Voters’ Heritage Fund, that will seek voter approval of a ballot referendum designed to support the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund in acquiring and preserving recreational and historical assets across the state. The measure, which would go before the voters in the coming November election, is currently being considered by the Arizona Legislature.

HCR2047, sponsored by Representative Russ Jones (R-Yuma) and co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of 17 members of the House, would place a referendum on the November ballot seeking voter approval for the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund.

“Pristine areas that represent the varied vistas, flora, and fauna found throughout Arizona, along with many important fragile sites, represent the heart and soul of our state,” Jones said. “It’s particularly important now, as Arizona celebrates its Centennial, that we rededicate ourselves to the preservation of our historical roots and spectacular vistas.”

The Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund was initially established in 1990 following the passage of a citizen-approved ballot initiative. As a result of the recent recession, however, the Legislature chose to redirect the dollars and remove that Fund from statute in order to close budget gaps.

The bill has already passed its first hurdle, gaining the unanimous 9-0 vote of the House Agriculture and Water Committee.

“In celebration of Arizona’s centennial there is nothing we could do that is more significant than to restore the one major tool our state has for preserving our special places,” said Phoenix lawyer Grady Gammage, Jr., Chairman of the committee that will seek voter support for the referendum this fall.

Richard H. Dozer, Chairman of GenSpring Family Office – Phoenix and former President of the Arizona Diamondbacks, is serving as Treasurer of the Committee. Looking back, he reflects, “The Heritage Fund has supported parks, trails, open space, jobs, and a better economy for Arizona in the past. We need it fully restored so that it continues that important work of preserving our rich history, beautiful landscapes, and our childrens’ strong minds and bodies. That is why I have agreed to support this campaign.”

One supporter of the restoration effort is Vicki Kilvinger, mayor of Florence, AZ. “From 1991 to 2006, Florence received a total of 18 grants totaling $1.5 million dollars, which was matched by the same amount for a total of over $3 million dollars,” said Kilvinger. “Our community and others across the state have been able to rehabilitate historic buildings utilizing the Fund. Passage of the referendum would re-establish a program that would create jobs in this difficult economy and also save historic properties, build parks, and contribute to a higher quality of life for our residents.”

According to Beth Woodin, President of the Heritage Alliance, a coalition is forming to support the referendum campaign. “The Heritage Alliance consists of organizations, companies and individuals in recreational, open space, historic preservation and conservation communities, as well as county and municipal governments,” Woodin said. “We already have thousands of activists across the state ready to hit the ground running, and we expect many other organizations also to join the cause.”

For more information, please contact: RestoreTheHeritageFund@cox.net. 

Communities applaud bid to revive Heritage Fund for historic projects

[Source: Jessica Testa, Cronkite News, 2/16/2012] – FLORENCE – To most people, these old buildings look like they’re decaying from the inside out. To Bonnie Bariola, they’re treasures, held up by century–old adobe brick and generations of hand-me-down stories. The Ceyla Long Sweeny Residence, built in 1876, is a small adobe house with manure for insulation and saguaro ribs for a roof. Bariola points to broken window, shattered by a tossed rock. A few blocks over, three dead pigeons lie just inside the entrance to the Cuen House and Butcher Shop, the first telephone exchange in Pinal County. Bariola fearlessly marches through as pigeons coo from the rafters.

Plans to restore the buildings won grants of more than $90,000 each through the Heritage Fund, which Arizona voters established in 1990. And both were stripped of that promised funding in 2009, when the state swept the Heritage Fund in an effort to balance its sinking budget.

In 2010, lawmakers eliminated the Heritage Fund, pulling the plug on dozens of approved, construction–ready projects, including five in Florence.

Bonnie Bariola, member of the Florence Preservation Foundation, wrote a grant for the restoration of the town's historic White House. Bonnie Bariola, member of the Florence Preservation Foundation, wrote a grant for the restoration of the town’s historic White House.

“Using Heritage funds, we’ve been able to maintain a part of history,” said Bariola, grant writer for the Florence Preservation Foundation. “Without funding, the culture of these buildings wastes away.” During the Heritage Fund’s 20–year run, Florence received more than $1.5 million in 18 state grants to restore its 19th century structures. The former mining community and Pinal County seat was third in the state for total dollars granted, behind Phoenix and Tucson.

Now, a state lawmaker is moving forward with a resolution that would put the Heritage Fund back on the ballot in November. If approved, the fund would be protected from any future sweeps thanks to the 1998 Voter Protection Act, a constitutional amendment that prohibits state lawmakers from reallocating any voter–created funds. “It’s fitting we do this, especially in our centennial year,” Rep. Russ Jones, R–Yuma, said recently to the House Committee on Agriculture and Water, which unanimously voted to support HCR 2047.

The Heritage Fund provided up to $10 million annually from the Arizona Lottery to both the Arizona Game and Fish Department and Arizona State Parks. Game and Fish used the money to promote outdoor recreation, help threatened and endangered species and educate residents about the environment and wildlife. Arizona State Parks used the fund for its own acquisitions and improvements and administered grants through programs benefiting historic preservation, trails and parks.

It’s not just Florence benefiting from the Heritage Fund – every city and town in Arizona has received the grant money, said Janice Miano, part–time executive director of the Arizona Heritage Alliance. “The impact is most noticeable in the rural counties, where any infusion of external funds for trail maintenance, land acquisition and construction repair will have a far larger impact to the relative population,” she said.

A Heritage Fund grant for $60,000 was canceled for a book on midcentury modern architecture published by the Phoenix Historic Preservation Commission. The city was able to shore up the money from federal grants to complete the project, and “Midcentury Marvels” will soon have its second printing.

Oro Valley wasn’t as fortunate. A $27,660 grant to build a dog park was canceled, along with a $111,160 grant to restore the 1874 Steam Pump Ranch. Ainsley Legner, director or Oro Valley’s Parks, Recreation, Library and Cultural Resources Department, said she’d be delighted to see Oro Valley residents be able to visit and use that land for recreation. “We don’t have any money available to improve the site. We can’t stabilize all the structures and provide the necessary amenities, like a restroom or a fire hydrant,” she said. “When you take away something as significant as Heritage funding, you can no longer pull all those resources together to make good things happen.”

Jay Ziemann, legislative liaison for Arizona State Parks, said the agency’s board supports Jones’ resolution but that his optimism is limited. Ziemann said many legislators share the views of Rep. Brenda Barton, R–Safford, who raised concerns in the committee meeting about the availability of lottery funds. A reinstated Heritage Fund would reduce the amount of revenue available to the Legislature. “It’s nice that it cleared that first step, but it’s got a long way to go,” Ziemann said. “I know it has a lot of hurdles ahead.”