RD135 - Report on the Stewardship and Status of Virginia’s State-Owned History Property: 2017 - 2019

Executive Summary:
As the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the national preservation program winds down, the Commonwealth still finds itself grappling with economic strain, an ever-increasing demand on its financial resources, and the looming environmental threat of sea level rise. This report provides the Commonwealth an opportunity to both extol past accomplishments and address emerging and recurrent challenges.

Sea level rise poses significant threats to coastal resources, and it is imperative that state agencies assess probable threats to historic properties. Although all of the ramifications of sea level rise are not fully known, with proper planning, the negative impacts from projected changes on historic resources can be minimized. The management of state-owned historic properties should be integrated into an agency’s strategic and master plans so that appropriate consideration may be given to those resources in the face of a natural disaster or other threats.

This report highlights a few of the 547 state-owned historic resources that fall within Climate Change Impact Areas. These areas were defined as a combination of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA’s) 2014 5-foot sea level rise predictions, combined with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s 2014 Category 4 hurricane storm surge data.

DHR has continued to strike successful partnerships with numerous state agencies in the face of widespread financial tightening. These partnerships have led to preservation triumphs, some of which are featured in this report. As state agencies continue to experience budget challenges that affect their ability to invest in the maintenance of their historic properties, they should also be mindful that short-term needs not override stewardship responsibilities. Preservation is a long-term investment. But Virginia’s historic resources shape the Commonwealth’s identity and contribute significantly to our heritage tourism industry, a consistent driving economic force for Virginia.

On April 28, 2017, Governor McAuliffe signed Executive Order 64 which supports enhanced stewardship of state-owned historic resources. Although the Commonwealth is unlikely to be in a financial position to pursue all of the recommendations laid out in this stewardship report, we encourage state agencies to engage with DHR on this new Executive Order (See Appendix D) which specifies:

• Pursuing listing on the Virginia Landmarks Register (VLR) of historically significant properties;

• Using the state’s highway marker program to help educate the public about Virginia’s rich history and promote tourism in the Commonwealth (see photo, next page);

• Preparing and implementing treatment plans, historic structure reports, and preservation master plans to guide stewardship of historic properties;

• Exploring long term leases and resident curator agreements for vacant state-owned historic buildings or other structures to leverage private investment in the rehabilitation and maintenance of under-utilized resources; and

• Proactively pursing energy efficiency measures and addressing deferred maintenance backlogs as outlined in Executive Order No. 31, with the goal of preservation and conservation.

“The Commonwealth must continue to recognize and celebrate Virginia’s historic resources.” DHR continues to recommend that state agencies pursue listing of their significant properties on the Virginia Landmarks Register, so that these resources can be recorded for the education and enjoyment of all, as reflected in the new State Stewardship Executive Order recently signed by Governor McAuliffe. Only four additional state-owned properties were listed during the past two years, bringing the total of state-owned listings to 127.

In addition to the content mandated by Senate Bill 462 adding § 10.1-2202.3, this report includes sections on DHR’s own initiatives to promote stewardship as well as case studies of exemplary state stewardship by other agencies.

This sixth biennial report reaffirms that:

• The Commonwealth’s real estate holdings include a rich and diverse collection of historically significant properties, some of national and international importance.

• The Commonwealth as a whole benefits when leaders understand that preservation makes good environmental sense as well as good economic sense and is integral to conserving energy. This understanding on the part of state agencies promotes an ethic of stewardship.

• Certain types of state-owned historic properties are under-represented on the Virginia Landmarks Register, especially those related to institutions of higher education, the Civil War, and the history of African Americans, Virginia Indians, and women. This should be addressed through strategic additions to the Virginia Landmarks Register.

• The seat of state government—the area surrounding the State Capitol—includes buildings that together contribute to a tangible identity of state government. It is appropriate that, as a collection, this historic district be documented and honored through inclusion on the Virginia Landmarks Register.

• DHR’s existing inventory and assessment of historic state-owned properties is so out of date as to be of limited use. The inadequacy of the information impedes DHR’s ability to administer its own programs, assist other state agencies, and for those agencies to fully understand and take into account the historic resources in their control.

• The transfer of portions of Fort Monroe to the National Park Service for use as a designated National Monument and the continued management and sustainable redevelopment of this nationally-significant property by the Fort Monroe Authority must remain one of the Commonwealth’s most important stewardship priorities.

• Institutions of higher education need to model better stewardship by taking their historic resources into account when preparing master plans; they should celebrate their register-eligible properties through listing on the Virginia Landmarks Register and/or state highway markers, both of which are effective tools for educating the public about Virginia’s rich history and promoting tourism.

• State agencies should seek energy efficiency and sustainability goals through best-preservation practices. Despite assumptions to the contrary, stewardship is very often the most cost-effective investment of scarce resources. At a time when we all must make every dollar count, the act of reinvesting and recycling our historic buildings is both environmentally sustainable and economically prudent.