Saturday, February 23, 2013

Repair, reuse, recycle

photo of old Duluth fire house
© harrington
A few days ago, I got an email telling me that the restoration of this old fire house in Duluth was just about done, as was the construction of new apartments on the north side of this block. I've been involved in the preservation and reuse of several buildings in Duluth, and Minneapolis, and lived for awhile in the converted historic Nelson School in Stillwater. Since I still consider myself a New Englander, a group noted for hanging on to their historic roots and edifices, I suppose I come by this involvement naturally. If you've read some of my prior postings, you know that I believe that one of the best ways to protect great undeveloped places is by creating great developed places like Minnesota's cities and towns. (Actually, I believe that creating great cities is a wonderful idea all by itself.) It's really hard, as far as I can tell, to create a sense of place where everything's new. Bright and shiny is fine for cell phones and laptops, but where I live I want there to be at least the possibility of growing roots, and roots seem to grow best in old soil. The latest issue of American Poet arrived in my mailbox this week. Much of it focuses on introducing younger poets to a broader audience. I'm all for that but find as much, or perhaps more, pleasure reading an anthology of "old" winter poems interspersed with illustrations that look like old fashioned wood cuts or copper etchings. The latest issue of Yankee magazine also arrived this week. It's all about the power of place and how "our homes and our land define who we are." I wish I had more of a sense that those of us who "live, work and play" in My Minnesota believed that. Instead, too many of us seem hell-bent on making a buck today with little or no regard for tomorrow's consequences. I slip into that mode from time to time myself. But I like myself better, and the results of my decisions are more satisfying, when I remember and act on the words of Chief Seattle “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” There are many rural centers with historic buildings that offer wonderful reuse opportunities. As long as we have DFLers in both houses and the governor's office, what if we asked them to help create jobs in Minnesota by preserving our heritage and extending the state historic tax credit program for at least a decade. The Preservation Alliance of Minnesota is doing some good work with their Main Street and Sites Worth Saving Programs. Having additional sources of equity funds for rural center redevelopment couldn't hurt. New Englanders are (in)famous for a "use it up, wear it out, repair it" approach to life. Think about whether we could use more of that approach here. Thanks for stopping by. Please come again to see what's old and/or new in our Minnesota.