Category Archives: Historic Preservation

Five Things to Keep in Mind About Historic Building Renovation

(by Charissa Durst, originally posted on October 4, 2012)

We often take for granted the history of a neighborhood. Where once stood an Art Deco office building, now sits a cookie-cutter strip mall. But what if an architect had taken the time to study the history behind the Art Deco building? How would they have gone about completing an historic building renovation that not only would house shops but could also have a positive impact on the neighborhood as a whole? By following a few guidelines, renovating a historical building doesn’t need to be the money pit many developers would have you believe.

Do your research. Understanding the history of a community will give you a huge advantage when beginning your restoration project. Just as architectural periods segue from one style to another, neighborhoods reinvent themselves over time. Through careful research, patterns will emerge that will help you tackle your project while maintaining the building’s integrity. Historically, research has always been a bit of a treasure hunt. Hours of library research often turned up scant details while other days you could immerse yourself in a building’s original plans. Luckily, the internet has opened up the world’s historical archives and sources such as Sanborn Fire Insurance maps collection give you an instant picture of a neighborhood’s character.

Review regulations. Every city has its own regulations on historical preservation. Taking the time to learn know your area’s regulations will definitely save you time, money and headaches. Submit plans early in the process; you might need the extra time to make design adjustments. Also, check the historical designation of the building you are restoring. Is it listed in the National Register of Historic Places or as a contributing structure to a historic district? Contact the state historic preservation office, the agency that oversees historic preservations, and ask if your project has any restrictions you’ll need to follow. Generally, historic renovations should follow the Secretary of the Interior’s Guidelines for Rehabilitation (link to NPS site?). Finally, check if your property is located in an area subject to review by a local area commission, architectural commission, or historical commission. I sit on the German Village Historic Commission here in Columbus, and believe me, we are way more strict with buildings in our district than a property that is merely subject to state or federal regulations!

Secure funding. Historic building renovations can qualify for a variety of federal grant programs. These programs, which help offset the high cost of preservation projects, have various requirements so make sure you know your projects parameters and goals before applying. The Main Street Grant program assists historic downtown areas retain their tradition and character.  Our company is currently working on a façade improvement project in the City of Xenia that was partially funded by a Main Street grant.

Rendering of proposed facade improvements in Xenia, Ohio

Federal historic tax credits and new market tax credits have been a source of funding for renovation projects since the 1980s. When coupled with state historic tax credits, a significant percentage of the project’s costs can be covered. Our Woodward Opera House project recently applied for federal and state tax credits, which allowed the project to expand from a $2.5 million “just fix-it” construction budget to an almost $15 million state-of-the-art performing arts center budget.

The Woodward Opera House in Mount Vernon, ca 1916

Reuse and recycle. Bringing modern conveniences and materials into your historical renovation can be a labor of love. By installing environmentally friendly products during your renovation, you can bring warmth and savings to your building. Reuse, restore or repurpose flooring you salvaged during demolition. Creating a ‘sustainable-use plan’ prior to construction will expedite the material recycling and help you organize the inventory for future use. If your goal is a sustainable project, consider obtaining LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. A project earns points for each sustainable criteria met.  A total building renovation qualifies as a LEED New Construction project, which requires 40 points for basic certification, 50 for Silver, 60 for gold, and 80 for platinum. HDC is currently renovating a historic elementary school with the goal of achieving LEED for Schools Silver Certification.

Stewart Elementary School in Columbus, Ohio, with the original 1874 building in the front

Hire the Right Team. The pool of design firms that provide historic renovation services seems to grow as the economy shrinks and property owners stop building new and start focusing on maintaining their existing real estate. In reality, many firms actively avoid historic renovations because they are, as one engineer told me, “dirty.” The site can be full of unknown contaminants,  there are too many restrictions on the design work, and you never know what will be uncovered during construction that will require a sudden change in the plans. In a new construction project, all the mistakes are your own and you don’t have to deal with inherited issues. But if you ask most people, they would much rather live and work in a nicely renovated historic building than in a modern building. The materials, proportions, and craftsmanship of historic buildings just cannot be replicated today without breaking the bank.

Undertaking an historic building restoration doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Thoroughly researching the project before you begin will save you both time and money. Hiring the right team will save you headaches during design reviews and construction. The reward for your effort, though, is knowing you saved a piece of history for yet another generation to cherish


Going Green with Historic Building Renovation

(by Andy Sewell, originally posted September 27, 2012)

Undertaking an historical building renovation provides you with an opportunity to combine the authenticity of the old with the latest technologies and concepts in green building. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the sponsor for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), estimates that buildings account for 74 percent of the electricity used in the U.S. and 39 percent all energy usage.

The goal of the LEED program is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 50 percent, an ambitious commitment that’s only attainable on a one by one basis. Besides bringing an existing building into the 21st Century by using the latest building materials and techniques that increase its energy efficiency, rehabilitating an existing building saves raw materials and lowers landfill waste. Saving historic buildings also has an important social role by preserving the past for generations to come.

The Lincoln Theatre in Columbus, Ohio, renovated  to meet City of Columbus Sustainable Design standards

Planning the renovation of an historic building is complex to start with, but maintaining its historical integrity with the green building challenge makes the project that much more challenging. Fortunately, engineers, architects and designers with LEED credentials who respect the historical value of the building know how to marry the old with the new, such as those on staff here at Hardlines Design Company. The result is a building with that’s lighter on the environment because of the energy-efficiency intelligence designed into it and the recycling that takes place in the renovation process.

Using licensed and highly trained consultants who specialize in green and LEED building can help you navigate the design, approval and certification process, for both recognition as a green building and a sound historical building. These experts know how to combine energy efficient heating and cooling, lighting and air quality controls without damaging the components of the structure that contribute to its historical significance.

By working with the existing framework of the building and salvaging what’s significant and valuable, the project team can incorporate components that bring it up to the high standards for LEED certification or as a green building. High efficiency HVAC equipment, insulation, windows and ventilation techniques contribute to the greening of existing structures without interfering with their role in history, socially and physically.

Using old and new materials that don’t cause indoor air pollution has never been easier, since options for products that do not throw off harmful gases are many. Wood finishes with low volatile organic compounds are available for refinishing existing wood. Updating wiring with smart technology lowers the energy footprint, as does building in water conservation measures without disturbing the original fixtures.

The art behind using the original components, combined with modern construction practices, assures owners and developers that the final result will be a seamless blend of the best of the past with state-of-the-art engineering and design. It’s possible and desirable to combine the past with the best of the new to not only honor the history, but to respect the environment in the future, as well.

For more information on incorporating green design into your buildings, old or new, please feel free to contact us!


Economic Impacts and Historic Preservation

(By Andy Sewell, originally posted March 15, 2012)

The Southern Theatre in Columbus, Ohio, which also houses the Westin Hotel. The Southern Theatre opened in 1896 and was renovated in 1998

Historic preservation can be a very effective tool in strengthening communities, especially in a time of economic hardship and social change. The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) recently released a report on the economic impacts of historic preservation. It’s well worth the read. Some of the key points to consider:

  • Information on the relationship between historic preservation and economic impact is presented, although the authors note a general need for more data regarding jobs, property values, heritage tourism, environmental  data, and downtown revitalization efforts
  • While efforts are being made to collect this data at local and state levels, a coordinated research effort is needed on a nationwide scale
  • In addition to economic impacts, social benefits such as increases in community cohesion and quality of life should be considered
  • Revitalization of America’s small towns through programs such as Main Street (http://www.preservationnation.org/main-street/) brings a renewed focus on the local community and small businesses.

The ACHP’s study shows that while multiple efforts are being made to study the impact of historic preservation, further work is required to fully assess, document, and present the true economic benefits of historic preservation to our communities.

The ACHP’s report can be downloaded by clicking the following link, which will begin an automatic download of the PDF document:


Lincoln Theatre Wins the Recchie Award!

(by Charissa Durst, originally posted December 9, 2011)

The Goldilocks Principle, or Third Time’s a Charm!

The James B. Recchie Award was established in 1984 by the Columbus Landmarks Foundation to honor those who have made exceptional advances in historic preservation and urban design in the central Ohio area. Since previous projects that received the award were designed by the most prestigious design firms in town, we here at HDC have always felt that the Recchie Award is one of the premier historic preservation awards in the state—and one that I’ve dearly wanted for the firm!

HDC began the addition to and rehabilitation of the Lincoln Theatre in 2005 with a master plan, with construction completed in May 2009. The 1928 Egyptian Revival theatre once was the heart of a thriving African-American neighborhood, but it had sat vacant for almost 40 years. The City of Columbus acquired the property in 2004 and recruited the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts (CAPA) to manage the building rehabilitation project. The Lincoln Theatre Association was formed with wide community support and a stated mission to “serve as the steward of the historic landmark theatre, as an incubator for talented, emerging artists.” This complex project was completed on such a fast schedule that when people asked what was our favorite part of the Lincoln Theatre project, we sometimes joked: “When it was over!” But today, we’d answer (this time, only half jokingly): “When we won the Recchie Award!”

Our path to the Recchie Award, however, was elusive, and the competition tough…

The 2009 Recchie:  Were we too small?
The Lincoln Theatre opened on Memorial Day of 2009, and we nominated the project for the Recchie Award by submitting a description of the project along with the benefits to the community. Five of the nominations were selected to be finalists, including the Lincoln Theatre, and needless to say, everyone involved was elated. The HDC design staff coordinated with the theatre staff of CAPA to show the three jurors around the building, and then we attended the awards ceremony the next day, with high hopes and crossed fingers. But the Recchie was awarded to the Ohio State University Thompson Library renovation, a large-scale, high-profile project to expand and modernize the beloved main library, one of the anchor buildings on the Oval at the OSU campus. We had to admit, the work was indeed massively impressive and well deserving of the award. So, we thought, maybe next year…

The 2010 Recchie:  Were we too big?
In 2010, we again nominated the Lincoln Theatre (thinking maybe 2009 was an anomaly), and the Lincoln again became a finalist. But this time, the Recchie Award went to a project on the opposite end of the size spectrum, the Franklin Park Residence and Gardens, a residential-sized project commended not only for its design but also for its community involvement and impact. Dozens of nearby residents came out to praise the gardens. Again, we had to admit, it was a beautifully executed historic house renovation, and one with an immediate community benefit.

HDC architect Vivian Majtenyi explains the Lincoln Theatre project during the 2010 jury tour

The 2011 Recchie:  Surprise! This time, just right!
In 2011, we decided to skip the nomination while we gathered more operating data about the theatre’s affect on the community. So you can imagine our surprise when the notification arrived that—for the third time—the Lincoln Theatre was an award finalist! When we asked who nominated the project, we were told that all nominations are anonymous, and in this case, only the name “Lincoln Theatre” was submitted, with no description or justification. This time, for the juror’s tour, HDC and CAPA each sent three people, and we highlighted the jazz academy on the third floor, the rooftop patio (missed on previous tours), and the diverse uses of the theatre.

The Jazz Academy’s keyboard studio (left) and the rooftop patio (right) (Photos courtesy of Brad Feinknopf)

We arrived at the 2011 awards ceremony at the Franklin Park Conservatory with subdued expectations, aiming to enjoy the presentation for itself. At the end of the evening, when Nancy Recchie announced that the winner was the Lincoln Theatre, we were stunned! After the presentation, we were congratulated by many friend and peers, who said the award was well deserved and long overdue.

When our group got together to talk about the process, we surmised that this year, we had done a good job on the tour of explaining what the Lincoln Theatre was all about. During the tour, juror Patty Stevens, Chief of Park Planning at Cleveland Metroparks, was amazed that the three design representatives from HDC were all women and marveled at how one firm could have architects, historians, and archaeologists under one roof. Juror Cleve Ricksecker, Executive Director of Capital Crossroads and Discovery District SID, was very impressed by how heavily the theatre was used for non-traditional events such as graduation parties and funerals, and Mark Feinknopf, an Architecture & Planning Consultant with Sacred Space Inc., was a former resident of Columbus who remembered being in the theatre before the renovation. He was particularly moved by its revival. The three jurors also commended the design of the newly inserted balcony, which has been very successful with audiences!

The performer’s view from the stage, showing the new balcony at the back (Photo courtesy of Brad Feinknopf)

The audience view of the Lincoln Theatre, from the balcony looking at the stage (Photo courtesy of Brad Feinknopf)

At left: Here we are, just before the official presentation of the plaques (the rolled awards we’re holding are for being finalists). Left to right: Todd Bemis (CAPA, VP of Operations), Charissa Durst (HDC, President), Laura Piersall (HDC, Project Architect), Alison Badowi (Kabil Associates, Structural Engineer), and Vivian Majtenyi (HDC, Architect)
At right: The 2011 Recchie Award plaque

Epilogue
Too small? Too big? Just right! That’s the Goldilocks principle, and for us, the third time quite unexpectedly turned out to be the charm. We were also given an extra award plaque to present to Mayor Coleman, in recognition of his support in securing the initial funding for the project; we’ll be giving the mayor his award in mid December.

And so, on a happy note, we here at HDC give a hearty thanks to all who contributed to the Lincoln Theatre renovation and operations, making this award possible. Be sure and check out the history of the Lincoln Theatre, and don’t miss their calendar for unique events and shows!

The Lincoln Theatre project team:
Architect: Hardlines Design Company
Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing/Engineer: Korda/Nemeth Engineering, Inc.
Structural/Civil Engineer: Kabil Associates
Acoustician: Acoustic Dimensions
Interiors/Furnishings: Williams Interior Design
General Contractor: The Quandel Group, Inc.

Also check out the announcement in the Columbus Dispatch.