Throughout 2023, Fredericksburg city staff and Historic Resources Planner, Kate Schwartz, worked with Heritage Arts of North Carolina LLC to enhance incentives and non-regulatory tools for preservation and to update the city’s spot blight/demolition-by-neglect provisions (see Chapter 8, Goal 2). Heritage Arts is a North Carolina-based historic preservation consulting services firm owned and operated by Dan Becker.
Becker, a nationally recognized expert in the field of Preservation Planning and Policy, is familiar with Fredericksburg’s preservation and planning initiatives. In 2021, HFFI hired him to provide an independent review of the city’s updated Preservation Plan and Historic District Guidelines. At that time, Becker also reviewed the City Council’s 2036 Vision and Comprehensive Plan along with related program and budget documents to get a broader sense of the principles, goals, and activities shaping our community.
The current investigation reviewed Fredericksburg’s existing preservation economic development tools and “demolition-by-neglect” provisions and gathered input from local stakeholders through a strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis survey. HFFI volunteers invested many hours to complete the SWOT survey and participated in a work session, along with city planning staff and representatives from the Architectural Review Board, FXBG Main Street, and UMW’s Department of Historic Preservation, to discuss these matters.
The results of this collaborative effort are documented in Becker’s report entitled, Historic Preservation Recommendations: Economic Incentives and Spot Blight/Demolition by Neglect, presented by Historic Resources Planner, Kate Schwartz, to the public and City Council at their work session on September 12, 2023.
The report presents recommendations to strengthen local preservation tools and boost their effectiveness. However, the measures outlined in this report go far beyond preservation to support a multitude of Comprehensive Plan goals and initiatives in the sectors of business, transportation, and public services to:
- foster a more livable community;
- promote sustainability in our built environment;
- retain neighborhood character;
- strengthen business and employment opportunities; and
- enrich Fredericksburg’s cultural experience for visitors and residents alike.
One of the most important recommendations in Becker’s report calls for a citywide Historic Preservation Economic Impact Study. Local preservationists have long advocated such a study, which has been listed as a Preservation goal on the City Council’s 3-Year Priority Task List since 2021. This kind of economic assessment is long overdue for a town as historically rich as Fredericksburg! It should also study preservation’s impacts beyond the boundary of our Old and Historic District to provide insight into the beneficial ripple effects that conserving the built environment of our community has on other “quality of life” indicators such as affordability, walkability, sustainability, job production, and cultural enhancement.
HFFI fully supports the findings of this report and hopes that the Council will not shortchange this important subject. Talk to your council representatives and those running for office to raise their awareness of the value of the report’s recommendations to Fredericksburg residents! Consider asking them: “Are you familiar with the new Preservation Incentives report? What about it resonates most with you? Will you support its recommendations to strengthen FXBG’s preservation incentives and encourage investment in the repair/rehabilitation of our existing building stock?”
But wait, there’s more good news!
HFFI also fully supports city staff’s proposal to establish the Historic Preservation Advisory Group. The creation of this group is another goal from the 2021 Preservation Plan (Chapter 8, Goal 7). Its purpose is to draw from local expertise in the field to assist the city in furthering best practices and support the Council’s vision to be “a proven leader in historic preservation.” Although this group was also discussed at the September 12, 2023, work session, no written document is yet available on the city’s document center. However, the discussion during the work session indicated that the new group’s participants would include an appointed Council member and representatives from HFFI, UMW’s Preservation Department, the National Park Service, Fredericksburg Main Street, and the City’s Museum Work Group.
HFFI is ready to participate in and support this new advisory group, assist city staff and hired consultants with technical support, and to continue serve as a preservation advocate and resource for the community.
Want to learn more on this topic?
- Review Heritage Arts’ June 2023 Preservation Recommendations report (see below!)
- Existing Rehabilitation Tax Incentives available to Fredericksburg residents, businesses, and property owners
- Watch Fredericksburg City Council’s September 12, 2023 work session
- Read Adele Uphaus‘ article in The Free-Lance Star, “City Council to Explore Historic Preservation Incentives”
- Check out Heritage Arts’ 2021 Observations Letter on Historic Preservation in FXBG