Law & Sausage…

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October 2014

There’s an old adage about watching law and sausage being made. “You never want to watch law or sausage being made. If you have to pick one, pick sausage.” More often than not, what you begin with is very different than the end results.

Earlier this year, Speaker of the House Jase Bolger began an effort to examine all taxing authorities centered on tax increment financing or TIF. There were anecdotal stories of local authorities using TIF funds for various things. In fact, Brownstown Township, uses their TIF funds to fund their entire township fire and police operations.

Several meetings were held with authors of the original laws when they were enacted in the 1970s and 1980s. Those meetings considered the original intent of the TIF issue as well as more recently enacted laws.

Publication1As a result of the meetings, a 90+ page bill, House Bill 5856, was drafted to substantially reform TIF through additional transparency and reporting requirements, limit the spending abilities of authorities, and control the TIF authorities’ ability to capture revenue. The intent was to take a bold step and create a new TIF act which would incorporate all the various TIF laws under one master statute and repeal some outdated and unused TIF authorities.

After the summer recess, the Legislature returned in September for four weeks of scheduled session. Upon release of the draft bill, numerous groups lined up both in support and opposition to the bill. Rep. Eileen Kowall, the sponsor of the bill, indicated that the bill was a work in progress and that more changes should be expected.

After numerous stakeholders, including MHPN, shared their views with Rep. Kowall, the proposed bill was dramatically scaled back to about 30 pages and only impacted downtown development authorities (DDAs). The new bill retained several transparency requirements from the original draft as well as allowing some local units of government to opt out of the TIF provisions.

MHPN has offered several amendments which address the impact of blight. Rather than focus on demolition, MHPN has suggested that mitigation of the blight be accomplished through rehabilitation. Our amendments have been adopted.

In addition, House Commerce Committee Chair Frank Foster has indicated that he will support incorporating Senate Bills 21 & 22 into HB 5856. Recall that Senate Bills 21 & 22 protect historic properties in Downtown Development Authority districts from improper demolition and codify the State Historic Preservation Office.

All of this is likely to change as HB 5856 will continue to undergo revisions and amendments. What will not change is that MHPN will monitor the legislation, advocate for historic preservation, and be the recognized voice for historic preservation in Michigan. We will continue to update you on changes to the legislation.

As the old saying goes, “You never want to watch law or sausage being made. If you have to pick one, pick sausage.”

Please remember to vote on November 4th and support candidates who care about bringing new life to Michigan’s historic neighborhoods.… It’s about main street remaining a good place to shop … It’s about historic farmsteads and lighthouses, factories and churches being vital parts of Michigan’s landscape … It’s about choosing how your community grows and changes … Most of all, it’s about you getting involved.

Please contact us if you have any questions or if we can be of service!

The Frederick Group
216 N. Chestnut (yes, it’s a historic building!)
Lansing, MI 48933
Like us on Facebook:
Follow us on Twitter: @Mfrederick19

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Barbeques and the Ballot Box…

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The summer is a wonderful time to enjoy all that Michigan has to offer including its rich historic heritage! Families are flooding the ferries to travel to the breathtaking Mackinaw Island, driving around Belle Isle for a nice view and the city as well as watching a family movie in their local historic theater.

While families are doing all of those things and more, the Michigan Legislature has started their summer recess. Legislators will likely be out campaigning and meeting with their constituents until session resumes in the fall.

This year is going to be an important election year for all levels of government because everything is up for election. August 5th is the Primary Election and the November 4th is the General Election. Some Incumbent legislators have primary challengers, there are open seats with no incumbent that are being hotly contested and everyone is patiently waiting to see who will come out on top in the August 5th Primary Election.

At the Federal level, one of Michigan’s U.S. Senate seats is up for the taking. U.S. Senator Carl Levin is retiring and Republican Terri Lynn Land, the former Secretary of State, or Democratic Congressman Gary Peters will fill his shoes. Currently, it is a tight race in the polls but is showing that Peters has the lead. Michigan’s 14 U.S. House seats will all be contested by both parties as well.

At the State level, Republican Governor Snyder is being challenged by Democrat Mark Schauer. Their main focus will be winning the November General election. That race is fairly close as well, but is showing that incumbent Governor Snyder has the lead.

The Michigan House and Senate races are all underway too. There are many hotly contested races all over the state. The Frederick Group has scheduled dates all throughout this summer where we will be out volunteering for numerous candidates. These volunteer days build new friendships and strengthen
our relationships with the existing legislators for MHPN’s benefit.

This fall is expected to be an important time for Historic Preservation. MHPN, along with the Frederick Group, will be pushing our agenda in Lansing to benefit historic preservation. One part of our fall agenda, Senate Bills 21 & 22, will be to enact these two bills that will protect historic properties in Downtown Development Authority districts from improper demolition and codify the State Historic Preservation Office.

As you are enjoying that summer barbeque, reflecting on the beauty of Mackinac Island, and visiting your local historic theater, please remember to vote on August 5th so we can help elect candidates who care about bringing new life to Michigan’s historic neighborhoods.… It’s about main street remaining a good place to shop … It’s about historic farmsteads and lighthouses, factories and churches being vital parts of Michigan’s landscape … It’s about choosing how your community grows and changes … Most of all, it’s about you getting involved.

Please contact us if you would like to volunteer with the MHPN public policy committee, have any questions or if we can be of service!

The Frederick Group
216 N. Chestnut (yes, it’s a historic building!)
Lansing, MI 48933
Like us on Facebook:
Follow us on Twitter: @Mfrederick19

Posted in Benefit, buildings, Elections, historic preservation, Legislation, Michigan Places Matter, Preservation, Uncategorized, Vote | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thank You Jackson!

2014_MHPN_Brochure FINAL tinyThis is a public “thank you” to the community of Jackson, Michigan, where the Michigan Historic Preservation Network (MHPN) presented its 34th Annual Statewide Preservation Conference on Wednesday through Saturday, May 14-17, 2014. Titled “Michigan Places Matter: Discovering How Your Community’s Cultural Resources Can Make Your Placemaking Unique,” Jackson was a great setting for our discussion. Located at the intersection of major Native American trails and later the junction of major railroads, it became a center of industry, culture, and noteworthy architecture that today makes it a “place that matters.” The conference was superb and we had a great time!

With 34 conferences under our belts held in 23 different communities, we can tell you that the conference was a solid success from every perspective – overall turnout, sessions, tours, networking, Twilight Tour, Keynote Address, Awards Ceremony, Saturday Historic District Commissioner Training, and so much more.

Dean Anderson - Don Weir - Bart Hawley 9

While the conference is the largest educational gathering for Michigan preservationists each year, let’s talk first about the economics of the conference. Did you notice that JTV provided year-long coverage of our development of the program, giving us a chance to attract our audience? Did you see that our participants began arriving on Wednesday before the conference and that some stayed afterwards to “Make it a Jackson Weekend”? On Thursday, did you happen to be looking when our participants spilled out the doors of our conference headquarters – the Commonwealth Commerce Center – to buy lunch downtown, or that on Friday, the MHPN name was up on the marquee of the Michigan Theatre where our annual awards ceremony was held?


A modest estimate of the dollars infused into the local economy by these activities is based on the MHPN’s $16,000 spent directly in town multiplied by three, or $48,000. And that doesn’t account for people who stayed at other that the Country Inn & Suites, our conference hotel, or went out for dinner, shopped, and enjoyed a nightcap.

Beyond dollars spent, the success of the conference was reflected by the number of people who participated. We started Wednesday night with 100 guests gathered at The Ella Sharp for our Annual VIP Reception for local dignitaries, MHPN donors, elected officials, local conference planners, and the MHPN’s leadership and staff. There were 168 enthusiastic conference-goers registered for Thursday’s programming during the day and the early evening’s Vendors’ Showcase, with over 30 of them taking the guided walking tour at twilight, “The Heart of Jackson’s Downtown.” Plenty stayed for the pub crawl that followed!

Leaving center on walking tour

On Friday, 166 registered for the day’s programming. The day was highlighted by our keynote speaker, Elizabeth Blazevich, Director of the Center for Design and the City at the American Architectural Foundation in Washington, DC. Her presentation – titled “Design and Cultural Heritage: Instilling Value in the Places that Matter” – not only amplified our conference theme but, coming from a professional with strong Midwestern ties, struck familiar chords with the 90 guests gathered in the sanctuary of St. Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church to hear her. Friday evening was capped off by the 23rd Annual MHPN Awards Reception and Ceremony with131 guests gathered at the Michigan Theatre of Jackson, your absolutely wonderful “Spanish Palace” on Mechanic Street!Tibbits Opera House image of Jackson Theatre

When duplicates are removed, we had 348 people participate in conference activities; 66 were from Jackson, or the Jackson area, equaling 19% of the total. How does the total of 348 compare to recent years? Having the 5th largest turnout the MHPN has had to-date, the gathering in Jackson is only surpassed by Flint in 2012 with 389 participants, Marquette in 2013 with 382, Ann Arbor in 2010 with 360, and Dearborn in 2008 with 352. With 31 Michigan counties represented in Jackson – or 37% of the state’s 83 counties – the top five groups of participants registered specifically for our sessions and tours included Wayne County with 53 participants, Ingham and Washtenaw with 46 each, Jackson with 40, and Oakland with 28. Included were participants from all quadrants of the Lower Peninsula as well as from Marquette and Houghton in the U.P. From out-of-state, we had registrants from our Midwest neighbors – Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin – and also from Washington D.C. and Colorado. The MHPN realizes that this audience is still not fully recovered from the recession. Appropriately, we kept registration costs at their 2008 level for yet another year, offered almost a dozen scholarships, and invited volunteers to receive deeply discounted registration in return for their services.

Friday Lunch & Mayor Welcome-0176 (7)_small

Finally, it is important to note that our educational programming at the conference remained exceptional. An indication of this was that almost every element of the Jackson program was accredited for continuing education credits by the American Institute of Architects, the American Institute of Certified Planners, and the MSU Master Citizen Planner Program. From Mayor Jason Smith’s “Welcome” during which he shared with our participants that “Looking to, and saving, the past is something that our city is committed to, to ensure our continued success into the future;” to sessions with titles as varied as “Claire Allen: A Regional Architect Based in Jackson,” “Reviving an Unusual Building Type: The Prison,” “The Myths and Musts of Working with Your Old House,” “Michigan Modern,” and “The Hidden World of the Archaeological Laboratory;” to tours that explored the churches, parks, and railroad history of Jackson, the intellectual content of the conference remained strong.

Friday CCRG Archaeology Session-0343 (35)_small

All in all, we found the residents of Jackson warm and hospitable and we all were impressed by the visual richness of Jackson’s wonderful downtown, its public and religious buildings, its engaging, walkable residential neighborhoods, and more. We applaud the City’s citizens and leaders for working to keep this exceptional building stock intact and vital for the entire state to enjoy.

You can bet we are singing your praises and will return soon!

Janet L. Kreger 2014 Conference Co-Manager
(with Co-Manager Elaine Robinson, a proud Jackson resident)
Michigan Historic Preservation Network


Photos courtesy of Amanda Davis Photography, Amara Frontczak, Elaine H. Robinson, and Tibbits Opera House
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Jackson is History

The following is the Welcome Speech presented by Jackson Mayor, the Honorable Jason Smith at the 2014 Annual Conference Networking Lunch, May 16, 2014.

Jason C Smith

The Honorable Jason C. Smith

Jackson is history. Not in a sense that this town is somehow inevitably doomed, but in the sense that this town is steeped in memories, icons, and structures unique to the “crossroads of Michigan”. I am proud of what our community was, what it is, and the plans for what we envision it to be.

While I won’t stand up here and pretend to know the ins and outs of historical preservation; the how-tos, the technical terms, or even the difference between architectural styles. What I can stand up here and tell you is that I am a student of history, and someone with a love for the city I am proud to lead, as well as the county that surrounds us.

Step inside the nation’s oldest, continuously running rail depot and you’ll immediately fall in love with the painstaking care that has gone into its preservation. The woodwork is immaculate, and one look at the ticket window takes you immediately back in time to the days of pocket watches, bowler hats, and whistle-stop campaign visits by presidential hopefuls.  I was recently informed that 2 sitting presidents have stopped at this depot and taken tours around the city. William McKinley and William Howard Taft both paid visits during their tenures to pay a visit Under The Oaks; the site honoring the birthplace of a new political party that would help shape our nation during it’s unfortunate separation, reconnection, and reconstruction.

photo courtesy of Jessica Puff

photo courtesy of Jessica Puff

Sadly, both presidents would be deceased before they were able to spend a few hours taking in a film at the historic Michigan Theatre; with its majestic views and ornate designs that are simply breathtaking. The tireless efforts to preserve that majesty is proof positive that the desire to hold on to our treasures is alive and well in Jackson.


photo courtesy of Jessica Puff

Some treasures, take a little bit of…shall we say repurposing to prove to the community they should be embraced. Like a prison, for example. The gun towers, barred windows, and outbuilding workshops still remain, but inside, the Armory Arts complex is an absolute gem. The time, work, and money that has gone into saving the historical integrity of the former Michigan State Prison while giving it new life is nothing short of awe-inspiring. The artists that now inhabit the walls of the facility are proud of the bars on their windows, and use the studios to create nothing short of magic. The grand hall, which once housed thousands of criminals for their 3 square meals a day, now houses murals, replica cells, and the paintings that are inspired by the century plus memories that those walls hold. IMG_4340



Other repurposed treasures include both City Hall and the Jackson County Tower Building. Each of those buildings began life as a bank. Even the Elaine Apartment building was once a bank.  Repurposing takes investment. Investment to ensure the past is preserved into the future. Looking to, and saving, the past is something that our city is committed to; to ensure our continued success into the future.

The city is engaging the Historic District Commission to work towards increased training, survey work, and historic property inventories. We look to continue our dedication to our downtown facades to provide 21st century retail and services while still preserving 19th and 20th century treasures that our amazing community holds.

In conclusion, I want to thank you all for your visit to our historic town. Remember, when someone says that Jackson is “history”, say thank you. Because we are history, and proud of it.

Jason C. Smith
City of Jackson, Michigan

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Historic Windows CAN BE Repaired and Energy Efficient

by James Hamilton, Boston Edison Historic District, Detroit, Michigan

Historic preservationists face a daunting informational deficit on windows: so many historic building owners simply do not know that their historic windows can be repaired and can be as energy-efficient as replacement windows. Replacement advertisers are what they hear.

Building owners need to know:

  • what to do,
  • how to do it, and
  • who can help.

I have assembled hands-on demonstrations, as well as comprehensive guidebooks, on two web sites. Wherever possible I have included videos.


Believe it or not, windows are not the main source of heat loss in our homes. Most heat loss is through the roof! When old windows leak, there are straightforward fixes. Many are inexpensive. Examples include:

  • Exterior caulking is need everywhere around the window frames and sills.
  • Interior weather-stripping around window frames and sash will seal them and stop drafts.
  • A good storm window is essential to finish the job.

The web site demonstrates how to caulk and weather strip windows.


Window ropes are broken, windows are painted shut, glass is cracked or broken, the glazing is failing, wood is rotted, steel is rusted, paint is peeling. Fortunately, windows rarely need all of these repairs at once!

The web site shows repairs for each of the different specific repairs.

Owners need a goal for deciding how much to repair. For historic preservation, windows only need the minimum repairs necessary to be protected and preserved. If a window never is opened, then repairs for operability can be postponed. Rotted wood or rusted steel can be repaired without repairing an entire window.

Sometimes, however, the goal is a thorough restoration of an entire window. Restoration mostly involves just doing a lot of these specific repairs at the same time. The demonstrations show this.

Do-It-Yourself: Save Money

Most of the steps in weatherization and repair are simple things, using low-cost materials and ordinary household skills. Windows with many problems usually don’t have harder solutions: they just need many simple things done.

With the information on the weatherization and repair web sites, an owner who is able to Do-It-Yourself can spend time to save money.

Owners who use contractors will benefit from the how-to information, because they will understand what contractors need to do and how they should do it. This knowledge will assure you that your contractor really knows how to make the necessary repairs.


Fortunately, there are more and more skilled specialists in window repair, restoration, and weatherization. Use them. Many contractors don’t know how to repair windows. Not knowing how, they will tell you that it can’t be done. But it can!


Note: The 2014 issue of the MHPN’s Historic Resource Council Directory, complete with listings for window contractors and other building trades professionals, is Now Available! Check it out online today.


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A Sign of the Times…

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When you travel down the road, do you pay attention to the road signs? If you do, you will notice that there are many different types – all in different shapes and colors. Some tell you to stop, while others tell you how fast to go, and still others tell you where things are such as the next gas station or rest area.

One particular sign of interest is tourist oriented directional signs, or TODS. TODS signs are found on state trunklines and state roads other than limited access highways (mainly “M” routes). Cultural, historical, recreational, educational, or commercial activities are eligible for TODS. Until recently, it was quite laborious to list a historic resource on a Michigan Department of Transportation TODS sign. The vendor in charge of the TODS program, Interstate Logos, took the approach that historic resources were not eligible for TODS signage. They even told a potential applicant to not bother submitting an application because it would not be considered.

Despite the statute clearly indicating that historic resources were eligible, Interstate Logos dug in its heels until MHPN got involved. An active committee, including MHPN partners the Michigan Historic Commission and the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan, and led by MHPN members Pam O’Connor, Alan Robandt, MHPN Executive Director Nancy Finegood, and MHPN’s lobbyist, Michael Frederick, MHPN got engaged and met with MDOT officials, including Director Kirk Steudle.

A little more than a year ago, MHPN’s lobbyist met with the MDOT Director. At the first meeting, Director Steudle asked for additional information regarding how many signs and sites would be impacted by a change in policy. He also recognized that other states were more robust with their historic resource application with TODS. MHPN membership took on the task of gathering detailed information about signs, locations, and historic resources in Michigan that could be eligible for TODS.

In the fall of 2013, the MHPN team met with Director Steudle and MDOT staff that oversaw the TODS program and all agreed to significant program changes. They then worked with MDOT staff to suggest improvements to the website, eligibility, and even the application process – it was all designed to follow the intent of the law and promote historic resources in our local communities.

Today the TODs program includes eligible historic resources! So the next time you are out driving, pay attention to the road signs. Do they list a potential historic resource such as Mackinac Island or invite you to visit historic Buchanan?

MHPN’s involvement in the government affairs arena allowed us to drive policy changes to the benefit of our members. MHPN lead the way in two important areas. First, MHPN membership stepped up and helped by being a resource, crafting thoughtful policy suggestions, and being the voice for historic preservation.

Second, MHPN’s direct relationship with MDOT Director, Kirk Steudle, paid dividends. As the old political saying goes, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” We are the recognized voice for historic preservation!

After all, it’s about bringing new life to historic neighborhoods … It’s about main street remaining a good place to shop … It’s about historic farmsteads and lighthouses, factories and churches being vital parts of Michigan’s landscape … It’s about choosing how your community grows and changes … Most of all, it’s about you getting involved.

Please contact us if you have any questions or if we can be of service!

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if we can be of service!
The Frederick Group
216 N. Chestnut (yes, it’s a historic building!)
Lansing, MI 48933
Like us on Facebook:
Follow us on Twitter: @Mfrederick19


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Metal Stripping and Illegal Scrapping Kills Historic Buildings

From comments made by Nancy Finegood, MHPN Executive Director to the Illegal Scrapping Legislation Work Group 

Metal stripping and illegal scrapping kills historic buildings.  The loss of historic buildings is killing Michigan’s cities like Detroit, Saginaw, and Flint.  Our historic buildings are what make our cities and towns unique, what sets us apart from others and differentiates us from being just another suburb.  Schools, churches, warehouses, and homes:  these comprise the fabric that makes up each town’s identity.  Protecting our historic buildings from illegal scrapping is good for residents, good for communities, and good for Michigan.

Our old buildings were built with quality materials, fixtures, and ornamentation—including metals.  The loss of this fabric decimates buildings.  Here’s how:

From the outside, the loss of metal roofing makes buildings vulnerable to water infiltration and other weather-related damage as well as providing entry for vandals.  Loss of metal architectural features—everything from ornamentation to statues to railings—detract from the economic value of the building, meanwhile disconnecting us from the story of why these structures are meaningful to us.

On the inside, stripping of interior metals—from the water pipes to electrical wires to sprinkler systems—make these buildings uninhabitable and skyrocket their rehabilitation costs.  Frequently, even those losses are overshadowed by the secondary damage done.  Sprinkler systems set off by electrical shorts as wiring is ripped out or the removal of plumbing fixtures setting off floods that destroy hardwood flooring and plaster before anyone can even notice it has happened.

What we’re left with is commonly referred to as an eyesore.  A building once honorable and meaningful now stripped of everything that made it unique and left to be condemned by the public as a nuisance.

The Vetal Elementary School on Westwood Street in Detroit was the victim of illegal scrapping when vandals devastated a congregation’s dream of opening a church in the vacant school smashing marble in search of hidden piping, stealing toilet fixtures, and setting off the sprinkler systems making the basement into a swimming pool.

The Edwin Denby memorial at the Brodhead Armory on Belle Isle—an enormously historic bronze relief that decorated this wildly important piece of historic architecture—was carefully extracted and sold who knows where.

And in Flint… this from the Executive Director of the Salem Housing CDC:

We have been of the opinion that our problems with illegal scrapping and lack of law enforcement are so well known that people are coming from out of state to scrap here in Flint.  We know that by far and large most illegal scrapping is being done by locals but the magnitude of the problem has grown so that even out-of-staters are drawn here to make a quick buck.

Let me say that the problem of illegal scrapping has become so prevalent that we now preemptively remove furnaces, water heaters and aluminum siding from any of our properties that we know are going to be vacant longer than just a very few days.  We will also have people stay in our houses just to prevent illegal scrapping.  All of our houses have alarms and we have armed response from a private company.  None of these measures are a guarantee, just a help.

Why should these organizations that are working so hard to save and restore our Michigan communities, bear the additional burden of the expense of protecting their buildings from scrappers?

There are countless other examples.

Michigan needs its historic buildings.  They are the landscape by which we understand where we came from, who we were, and who we can become.  It’s what makes cities like Detroit and Grand Rapids places to come visit, to see something unique. Stripping and illegal scrapping decimates these buildings.  In already cash-strapped towns like Flint, Pontiac and Detroit, erosion of a building to this level makes rehabilitation cost prohibitive and resuscitation nearly impossible. But we can deter scrappers.  With the right legislation, we can make it harder for a scrapper to sell a truck full of stolen steel piping, copper wiring, or a statue from a local church.  

If we want our communities across Michigan, to continue to grow and thrive, we need to protect our historic resources, our buildings, and our communities.  And that means deterring those that seek to rip them apart.  

Posted in buildings, historic, historic preservation, Legislation, Preservation, Scrapping, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment