Historic Augusta stresses benefits of preservation

After a building preservation seminar a couple of years ago, Tennent Houston and a few others believed they could present similar information in a much simpler way.

"I have been involved in a number of renovations in the past," he said. "When the seminar was over, we said that this is not that hard. We can share our experience of successfully renovating buildings and show them how easy it can be. We can describe, from start to finish, how one renovates a building in a way it qualifies for tax credits."

That gave birth last year to Preservation for Profit workshops and a guide publication, both organized and created by Historic Augusta Inc.

Mr. Houston is the president of the nonprofit's board and one of the workshop's presenters.

"We realized a long time ago that the only way to save buildings is to encourage individuals to invest in the building with the hope of making a profit," he said. "We also realized that when a building is restored, it brings economic development. That makes it easier to save the next building. It was our feeling that our mission with these workshops would be to help people capitalize on that opportunity."

The workshops are held twice in the spring and twice in the fall and are open to the public, said Robyn Mainor, the preservation services director for Historic Augusta and a field representative with the National Trust for Historic Preservation Partners in the Field Challenge Grant.

"When we started out, we thought that the workshop would appeal to mostly potential investors. But what we've found is that it appeals to people in general who have an affinity for old buildings and themselves want to know how to save a building," she said.

The workshop addresses the difference between a National Register of Historic Places historic district and a local historic district; federal and state tax credits for historic preservation projects and how to apply for them; and the secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation and the features of a historic structure. It concludes with a case study on the Levy House on Greene Street.

"That is really helpful for people because they can see how everything we talk about was applied to a real project," Ms. Mainor said.

Paul King, the owner of Rex Property and Construction Management, presents the case study. His company handled the project.

"I talk about the project from the beginning to the end and all the surprises in between," he said, such as what was found in the walls of the house and discovering extra square footage they didn't know was there.

Restoring the late-19th century house took about 18 months, Mr. King said. It now contains seven apartments.

"I love it when we can preserve those things and still have a modern use for the building," he said.

The organization hopes that the workshop, guides and other resources it provides will encourage more people to take an active role in saving structures, Ms. Mainor said.

"There are so many buildings in Augusta that have already been saved, but there are many more that need the attention and need the help, not only from Historic Augusta but from people with their own interests," she said.

Ultimately, the workshops are helping the organization meet its mission "to preserve historically or architecturally significant sites" in Augusta, Mr. Houston said.

"I think Augusta is finally becoming a preservation city such as Savannah and Charleston," he said. "People are coming to realize there aren't only aesthetic reasons, but economic reasons to save our buildings."

The next workshop will most likely be held in March, Ms. Mainor said, adding that people may request a guide without attending the workshop. The guide is free.

For more information about Historic Augusta, the workshops or to request a guide, call (706) 724-0436.

Reach Nikasha Dicks at (706) 823-3336 or nikasha.dicks@augustachronicle.com.


Search Augusta jobs