Friday, June 12, 2009

Managing Built Resources

Many years ago, in working with a large corporate client that was responsible for literally dozens of historic resources, it struck me as being incredibly inefficient to subject each proposed action that might impact those resources to the Section 106 review process. I mean really, if you replace one roof on a historic workers cottage and SHPO concurs your action had no adverse effect, why should you have to go through the entire process again when you want to put the same roof on another cottage at the same site? Thankfully, Oregon's SHPO, which has always had a good reputation for working to protect properties in a reasonable way, agreed with me. Out of that came what has now evolved into the "Manual for Built Resources," a sort of management plan for dealing with all the typical aspects of historic resources, specifically developed for a project, and establishing standard approaches that maintain character and ease the pain for clients. They have become near-standard, particularly within the utility sector. I am pleased to now see them working their way into other settings as well.

Earlier this year, in partnership with Steve Smiley, of Peck Smiley Ettlin, we began to develop an MBR for the Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics, located in White City, Oregon. SORCC is located in what was originally the Station Hospital at U.S. Army Cantonment "Camp White," a monster training facility built on the Agate Desert, east of Medford, at the start of World War II. The hospital, mostly built of brick, is the only element of the Camp to survive and has been owned and operated by the Veterans Administration since 1949.

A NR-eligible property, the VA is surely aware of its facility's significant history but, like most private clients, has a primary mission to address (in this case patient service) that means historic preservation isn't exactly their top priority. What the MBR will do, with luck, is provide reasonable and cost-effective solutions that can guide the VA's actions at SORCC so that they can balance patient service with historic preservation in a manageable way. Historic Preservation was never intended to turn properties into museums but rather to help owners continue to occupy and use them in a way that respects their history. And that is true whether the "owner" is the United States, a large corporation, or your neighbor that wants to open a Bed and Breakfast.

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