Cedar Rapids residents invited to join Preserve Iowa Summit
CEDAR RAPIDS — Conference-goers from around the state and beyond will see firsthand the great survival and flood recovery story of Cedar Rapids as they converge on the city for the Preserve Iowa Summit, but local residents are invited to further their knowledge of the area’s history, as well.
“There’s just an incredible amount of information that people will be able to get by coming to the conference,” said Mark Stoffer Hunter, historian at the Carl & Mary Koehler History Center in Cedar Rapids. “They’ll find out how preservation increases the value of the entire metropolitan area and why historic preservation is so critical to the health of the entire Cedar Rapids community.”
The Preserve Iowa Summit is the only statewide annual conference for professionals and volunteers involved in historic preservation and historic commercial district revitalization in Iowa. The summit, which runs Aug. 21-23, will highlight places such as the Paramount Theatre and U.S. Bank Building, both of which are among the successful comeback stories of the epic flood of 2008, along with other sites outside of downtown.
“It’s important to see how we can turn around neighborhoods,” Stoffer Hunter said. “Not just the downtown, but every historic neighborhood.”
Over 25 informational sessions are scheduled during the three-day conference, from structuring historic tax credit deals, to rescuing historic theaters and cemeteries, to mothballing vacant buildings and more.
A hands-on workshop will reveal solutions to stone masonry issues and demonstrate repair techniques, and the Cedar Rapids Historic Preservation Commission will honor individuals and organizations for restoring historic buildings at a ceremony at CSPS, 1103 Third St. SE.
Conference headquarters are at the Cedar Rapids Public Library, with sessions scheduled nearby at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, First Presbyterian Church, Waypoint and the Paramount, while architectural tours will go to all four quadrants of the city, as well as Marion and Mount Vernon.
Cedar Rapids residents who register before Aug. 8 receive a substantial discount on the conference fee and those who would like to attend just one session are invited to the opening keynote presentation for free.
There is no need to register for the opening session, which begins at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 21 at the Paramount Theatre, 123 Third Ave. SE. Registration information for the rest of the conference can be found at: www.iowaeconomicdevelopment.com/preserveiowa
The keynote address, by Donovan Rypkema, will highlight how historic assets that are preserved and reused can serve as foundations for the future.
Rypkema is principal of PlaceEconomics, a Washington, D.C.-based real estate and economic development consulting firm that specializes in downtown and neighborhood commercial district revitalization and the reuse of historic structures.
His message focuses on the similar challenges that communities face, regardless of location, and how their response has a lasting and substantial effect on the cultural heritage of the nation.
Rypkema notes that protecting historic buildings, repurposing land, preserving neighborhoods, redeveloping downtowns and connecting historic resources to regional plans will enable cities to transition to healthy communities that attract new residents and businesses to meet the needs of the 21st Century.
Other speakers include Jason Roberts, whose presentation will be at 4:20 p.m. Aug. 21 at the Paramount Theatre, and Stephanie Meeks, who will speak at the opening session at 8 a.m. Aug. 22 at First Presbyterian Church, 310 Fifth St. SE.
Roberts is the founder of the Oak Cliff Transit Authority, originator of the Better Block Project, co-founder of the Art Conspiracy and Bike Friendly Oak Cliff and recent candidate for U.S. Congress.
In 2006, Roberts formed the non-profit Oak Cliff Transit Authority to revive the Dallas streetcar system, and later spearheaded the city’s effort in garnering a $23 million grant to help reintroduce a modern streetcar system to Dallas.
He organized a series of “Better Block” projects in 2010, taking depressed blocks with vacant properties in southern Dallas and converting them into temporary walkable districts with pop-up businesses, bike lanes, cafe seating and landscaping. The project has become an international movement and has been featured in the New York Times, Dwell magazine and on NPR.
In his funny, smart, energetic and breathless talk, Roberts encourages listeners to stop waiting around for change, even if that means painting in our own crosswalks, bringing in our own trees and “blackmailing” ourselves into action.
Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, will address the qualities that create dynamic and livable 21st-Century cities and share information from a groundbreaking study that suggests a direct link between the ratio of older and smaller buildings in neighborhoods and the desirability of those neighborhoods to new residents.
Using three cities cited in the report, she will demonstrate how their success can be replicated in Iowa cities both big and small and how historic tax credits are spurring economic growth.
The National Trust works to save nationally important places and helps local preservationists and partner groups protect historic places nationwide.
Under her leadership, the National Trust has launched an effort to draw more attention to the connection between older buildings and vibrant cities and spearheaded research reflecting the benefits of historic preservation in today’s urban areas.
The Trust also has focused on broadening the preservation community and worked to achieve greater racial and ethnic inclusiveness within the organization and the preservation movement.
Before joining the National Trust, Meeks held senior executive positions, including acting president and CEO during her 17-year career with The Nature Conservancy, one of the world’s largest and most influential conservation organizations.
Preserve Iowa Summit: Aug. 21-23, 2014
Conference Headquarters: Cedar Rapids Public Library, Beems Auditorium, 450 5th Ave. SE
Exhibit Hall and “Preservationist is in” to answer questions: Thursday, Aug. 21, 7:30 a.m. to 4:20 p.m.
Registration and information desk: Thursday, Aug. 21, 7:30 a.m. to 4:20 p.m.; Friday, Aug. 22, 7:30 a.m. to 11:10 a.m.; Sat. Aug. 23, 8-8:30 a.m.