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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 29, 2008 9:47 PM.

Landmarks Omission

This is an old article, but the tensions it highlights have not gone away. What it describes is a two-front war, the likes of which we have already seen here in Williamsburg and will no doubt continue to see. On the one hand, as we all know, it is a struggle to get the Landmarks Commission to recognize buildings that are significant for non-traditional reasons. This includes buildings of significance to minority communities (the focus of the article), but it also includes less "loved" buildings, such as industrial buildings, Modernist buildings, or workers' housing (to name but a few). In the 10 years since this article was written, LPC has done much better in recognizing architectural and cultural diversity, but still has a ways to go.

On the other hand, minority communities often see Landmarking as elitist - the vanguard of gentrification - or imperiling their own development plans (as the article says, the ministers, politicians and businessmen "just don't want some landmarked building getting in the way of their housing and economic development plans"). We have already seen this play out in the fight to landmark Domino Sugar, where local affordable housing advocates have argued that Landmark designation will somehow mean less affordable housing (a fire that has been fanned by the developer, in this case). In fact, Landmark designation has no impact on use, and in the case of a large site like Domino, doesn't even impact the overall density of development. (One of our Councilmembers, in voicing his opposition to landmarking the Austin, Nichols & Co. Warehouse, claimed that designation would mean no affordable housing at the site. The landmarking was overturned by the Council, and the site is now being developed as 350+ market rate rental apartments - with no affordable housing component.)

Clearly, we all have a lot more work to do.

Comments (1)


You've hit on the issue that really makes me despair like no other--the perception that preservation means no affordable housing. It kills me to see developers pit neighbors against one another while they seek profits. I wonder if it is even worth doing some kind of conference about it, with concerned local groups--would be good to at least sit down at the table with one another instead of taking turns to speak at hearings and being angry.

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Eberhard Faber