Both the meeting and my walk pointed up an ongoing need for some old-fashioned boosterism to remind folks that preserving the city's historic housing stock is not just some la-dee-da notion for an elite few, but is part and parcel of the city's character. The historic districts where this is well-understood tend to be the ones with greater home ownership and interest in learning more about partnering with the city to uphold the Historic Preservation ordinance.
Districts with high absentee ownership, numerous multi-family dwellings and weak or non-existent district associations have much greater challenges to upholding standards and getting residents and owners to embrace historic preservation.
The Commission and city staff are doing their best to educate and engage the public. Take a look here to see information on the city web site. Some districts are able to organize events, such as the popular house tours that draw many visitors to the city, and to put up their own web sites. The Commission recently held a workshop on replacing wood windows and has its own web site (here).
From what I heard at Tuesday's meeting, obstacles to better support for historic preservation include a possible lack of coordination between city divisions, resulting in owners getting incorrect or contradictory information on repairs. This may be something our new director of Planning & Urban Development, Eric Jackson, can look into.
The Wood Windows workshop ran afoul of a conflict with another event that tied up access to the Plainfield Public Library, pointing up the long-discussed need for a community calendar to coordinate dates where possible.
A real boost to historic preservation would require a broad-based effort from entities including elected officials and the new Media division, as well as individuals and groups within the districts. From all reports, Scott Bauman in the Planning Division continues to be a key asset to the Commission. It would be wonderful if all six residential districts were able to have viable associations, but meanwhile a more general campaign to promote historic preservation must do.
If you are not aware of this movement in Plainfield, please take the time to go through the links above. You may find you live in a more interesting city than you realized!
Thanks to all who are already working on this cause. Plainfield has many fans in faraway places for its historic housing stock - it just needs a few more right here.