By Steve Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
The National Trust for Historic Preservation, which today releases its annual list of the most endangered historic places in the United States, is urging the federal government to do more to encourage homeowners and businesses to recycle existing structures rather than build new ones.
The organization is supporting legislation recently introduced in Congress that would provide financial incentives to owners of older and historic homes and commercial properties to make the structures more energy-efficient.
"You can't address climate change without dealing with existing buildings," Richard Moe, president of the trust, said in an interview before the release of the list, which highlights locations of architectural, cultural or natural heritage that are at risk of destruction or irreparable damage.
The 2009 list includes historic buildings in Galveston, Tex., damaged by Hurricane Ike; an industrial village in Easton, Mass., threatened by development, and the Memorial Bridge between Portsmouth, N.H., and Kittery, Maine, suffering from postponed maintenance.
The trust has typically used arguments such as historic significance or the prospect of economic revitalization to save endangered locations. This year, the group is highlighting the environmental benefits of restoring existing infrastructure and buildings, citing studies showing that 35 to 50 years may be needed before an energy-efficient new building saves the amount of energy lost in demolishing an existing structure.
Moe praised the Obama administration's inclusion of almost $8 billion in economic stimulus money to help low-income families weatherize older homes. "We need an urban strategy, and I think this administration is moving there," he said.
Legislation before Congress would offer owners of older homes a $3,000 incentive for improving energy efficiency by 20 percent, and $150 for each additional percentage point. Commercial property owners would also receive awards based on energy saved through retrofitting.
Release of the 2009 list of the 11 most endangered historic places is scheduled to be made in Los Angeles near a site on the list, the Century Plaza hotel, which opened in 1966 and is slated to be replaced with two 600-foot towers.
Also on the list are a number of locations associated with the Manhattan Project that are falling into disrepair, including the hangar at Wendover Airfield in Utah that housed the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the world's first atomic bomb.
The list also includes Unity Temple in Oak Park, Ill., designed by Frank Lloyd Wright; Mount Taylor in New Mexico, a site held sacred by Native American tribes; Dorchester Academy in Midway, Ga.; a plantation town in Hawaii; Miami Marine Stadium in Florida; and 11 buildings in Yankton, S.D.