Adaptive reuse preserves our history
To the Editor:
Years ago, before I knew what the buildings even were, I remember driving past the former Allentown State Hospital and doing a double take.
I pulled onto the campus and took a walk. The stately grounds and handsome buildings were stunning. A character and quality that doesn’t get built anymore. The hospital is now slated for demolition.
As communities age, buildings of character are finding themselves in need of rejuvenation. Adaptive reuse is a conscious decision to preserve the past while planning for the future by reusing existing buildings for new purposes.
Preservation of this type is not impossible. In fact, around the country we have conscientious communities establishing private partnerships to adapt old institutional sites to new and profitable uses, preserving local history and boosting their economic base.
Is it challenging? You bet. Expensive? Yes. On the back end, however, the economic benefits of historic preservation are enormous.
In Buffalo, N.Y., the Hotel Henry was a former state hospital preserved and repurposed.
A particularly stunning example. One of many.
Recently, a private sector developer expressed interest in purchasing our state hospital for preservation.
Legislators in our area have supported tax subsidies for strip malls and major grants for things such as warehouses. Projects that without question would move forward without government bailouts.
Historic rehabilitation and adaptive reuse projects, however, continue to be a struggle. In part because of the regulatory environment. Clearly, we have misplaced priorities.
The recent Southwest Lehigh Comprehensive Plan survey and public feedback sessions told folks in elected positions a few things clearly.
When asked if the community values historic architecture as community identity, 85 percent indicated it’s extremely, very or moderately important.
It would benefit our state elected officials to pay closer attention to public sentiment on this and similar issues and adjust priorities accordingly.
Board of Commissioners