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Archive for September, 2010

Since the loss of dozens of  U of A  area Joesler Homes more than 30 years ago, a drive for preservation  created 5 historic preservation zones (HPZ) in Tucson.  Falling short of needed votes, Feldmans Neighborhood missed an opportunity in 1997 for HPZ status.  In 2006, a new property protection law affectionately known as “Prop 207” ground the teeth off  new attempts at preservation.  Feldmans Neighborhood has just became a test case for a one such post prop 207 attempt known as the Neighborhood Preservation Zone (NPZ).

The demolition of 1127 N. Euclid is indicative of the NPZ’s weakness as we witnessed the loss of  an exceptionally unique Craftsman Bungalow in the Feldman Historic District last Saturday, Sept 11th, 2010.  The 1400-square foot residence”was” one of the very few all-stone Craftsman Bungalows in Tucson, constructed of “A-Mountain” basalt.   Faint cries to save it were met with an even more deafening silence from the City of Tucson.

The writing is on the wall.  This is not the end of demolitions of historic structures.  It is a sign of the times as an economically stressed out Tucson looks the other way and preservationists watch helplessly in dismay.   Action in this case can not equal regulation.  Feldmans Neighborhood is a registered historic district with an NPZ  and that didn’t help either.   The message is that Arizona’s property rights laws allow this to happen.  If  the City of Tucson, university and downtown area residents and preservation activists don’t think outside the regulatory box, older neighborhood context will  fade away.

After its own heavy-handed history, even the  University of Arizona now recognizes the value of being nestled in historic family oriented housing districts as it reflects preservation goals in its master plan and is directs its sights to upper level students housing blocks in appropriate rundown core areas that link the U of A Campus with downtown.  This is the kind of the energy that diminishes the attraction  to tear away at the hearts of U of A neighborhoods.   It’s a form of incentive when a large institution can assure success.  What can and will make a difference in the preservation and revitalization  of  vintage neighborhood context are a combination of strong incentives and a desire from the City, the U of A , builders and activists to want this.   The City for instance, wrote a minimally effective U of A area plans, 21 years ago,  that is in need of updating.  That document, re-written, can potentially express anything in the imagination.  Commercial incentive overlays now targeted in the core area of downtown are planting seeds of hope that could also potentially be applied  on a residential scale and if for no other reason;  just to be democratic to non-commercial zones.  Why not?   Incentive overlays are powerful, because our Mayor and Council can adopt things that individuals can’t do on their own without lots of money.   Areas hardest hit around the University and downtown are residential and commercial edges.   Application of incentives and policy statements  can evolve  methodically along such edges.   Every investor and builders recognizes  the value of an attractive incentive.  In an era of weakening regulation, this is where to look if we want to save history.   Historic description and photos provided by Phyllis Webster, Feldman Historian.

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