Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I Left My Heart in... Woodbury?

Illustration from a map of San Francisco 1856.

San Francisco, CA Vics
Flickr: roarofthefour
Bloomberg Business Week just ranked San Francisco as the top rated US city. I realize this particular rating is based on a number of factors, but certainly the attractive quality of their beautiful stock of fine Victorian and other historic homes and buildings cannot be overlooked. These buildings are a key component to the Bay area's charm and appeal, attracting quality residents and tourism from all parts of the globe. Whereas it is impossible to compare Woodbury to San Francisco, it must be noted that Woodbury also has a good number of interesting historic buildings, but sadly, the community at large appears to undervalue them. It seems to be a trend here in Woodbury to allow these buildings to fall into disrepair which, in turn, supports public opinion justifying demoltion. Boarded-up rental-unit-converted historic housing and vacant owners who let their buildings fall into a decrepit state (Holy Angels Parish, anyone?) have a negative impact on the community. Well-maintained housing on the other hand, especially those with old-house charm, has the exact opposite effect, attracting other potential old-house loving homeowners, businesses, tourism, and other positives.

Illustration from a map of Gloucester County 1849.
Woodbury, NJ Vic
Saving historic buildings is NOT the same as believing Woodbury should remain in the past. San Francisco is a prime example of a city that magically manages to be extremely forward thinking while maintaining a unique historic Victorian charm. I personally love a modern makerspace, computer lab/coffee shop or an electronic music event housed in a vintage storefront or warehouse. Perhaps I just love juxtapositions, but others seem to as well. It's a mix that works. A study by Rutgers Associate Research Professor for the Center for Urban Policy Research, Michael L. Lahr, Ph.D. concludes that New Jersey municipalities can greatly benefit from strengthening their engagement in historic preservation as a strategy for community revitalization (Montgomery, 2009). The National Trust for Historic Preservation goes on to state the following key points as to the power of 
historic preservation:

1. Creates Jobs

Because historic preservation is more labor intensive than new construction, it is proven to create more and better-paying jobs.

2. Is Good for Communities

Americans want to live, work, and visit authentic communities that reflect the area’s unique history and character. The historic tax credit makes saving and restoring those places financially feasible. (See bottom of page for more information on the Federal Historic Tax Credit.)

3. Is Good for the Local Economy

More than 75 percent of the economic benefits of historic rehabilitation remain in the local economies. This is because developers of historic buildings buy local and hire local.

4. Is Good for the Environment

Historic rehabilitation, by definition, focuses on existing buildings in existing communities, meaning that green space and farmland are unharmed. These places tend to be dense, walk-able communities that are close to public transit, schools and jobs.

5. Is a Smart Investment

Over the past 32 years, the federal historic tax credit has cost the US $17.5 billion in lost tax revenue. This figure is more than offset by the $22.3 billion in federal taxes these projects have generated.


The Atlantic Cities recently cited that “repairing existing residential buildings produces about 50 percent more jobs than building new ones.” In addition, historic preservation keeps more dollars in the local economy, as developers of historic buildings generally buy local and hire local. We could never be San Francisco but we can certainly "use what we got" and embrace Woodbury's historic charm rather than let it fade away. Would San Francisco be San Francisco without all those lovely Victorians!

Woodbury, NJ Vics
San Francisco, CA Vics
Flickr: doegox
Right at this moment we have the imminent threat of demolition by the Holy Angels Parish to destroy the Second Empire style Victorian "Green Hotel." On October 22nd they will be appearing in front of City Council to fight the decisions made by Woodbury's Historic Preservation Commission and Woodbury's Planning/Zoning board denying them permission to raze the historic hotel. Their reason? They want another parking lot. You'd think everyone had forgotten how to walk with all the free city parking just steps away! Please come out in support of saving this structure. The meeting will be held at City Council Chambers, 2nd Floor City Hall, 33 Delaware Street, Woodbury NJ at 7:30 pm 10/22. 

Woodbury, NJ Vic
Like this one? Don't get too attached...
It's a Bottom Dollar parking lot soon.
In addition, we stand to lose two historic properties on High Street, a Colonial Revival house built in 1850 (the Jacob Glover house) and another Second Empire Victorian house built circa 1880; both also in the name of parking (see above photo). In the case of the High Street properties, both structures were incidentally saved once before and moved off Broad Street in the 1940s.

There is however (and thankfully) the project involving the Green Opera house which is currently being restored to National Preservation standards and adaptively refitted by the RPM Group. Adaptive reuse, in and of itself, and when done correctly, is a very green, forward-thinking practice.

San Francisco, CA Presidio
Woodbury, NJ Vic
San Francisco, CA Vic
Flickr: roarofthefour
Woodbury, NJ Vic
San Francisco, CA Vics
Flickr: roarofthefour
Woodbury, NJ Vics
San Francisco, CA Vic
Flickr: roarofthefour

Interested in taking further action on a federal level? Read below...

Boston’s Fanueil Hall, San Francisco’s Ferry Building, and New York’s Apollo Theater. These are just a few of the 38,000 historic structures that have been carefully restored and reinvigorated with the help of the federal historic tax credit (HTC). For more than 30 years, this little-known program has reenergized neighborhoods and towns across America and created 2.2 million jobs.

But despite its impressive track record, the historic tax credit program is now in danger. Deficit reduction measures are currently being debated on Capitol Hill, and the HTC program is at risk of reduction or worse, elimination. Sign the pledge and help protect it today!


Meryon, Charles. 1856. San Francisco [Map], Retrieved October 5th, 2012, from: http://www.loc.gov/resource/g4364s.pm000344/

Montgomery, Samonne and Michael L Lahr. 2009. "Historic Preservation, Property Values, and Tax Rates: A Municipal-level Analysis in New Jersey," to be presented at the 48th Annual Meetings of the Southern Regional Science Association, San Antonio, TX.

Smith & Wistar. 1849. A map of the counties of Salem and Gloucester, New Jersey [Map], Retrieved October 5th, 2012, from: http://www.loc.gov/item/2012586902


Jacks said...

Brilliant post. Those that believe that investing in the past and going the way of historical preservation is wasteful are simply uninformed. Great job Village Green!