The rules are changing (“Design Flaw?” News & Features, July 12, 2006). Prompted by proposals for demolition of the Richmond and Murphy hotels, the Western State Hospital, and the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind— all historic assets held by Virginia — APVA Preservation Virginia worked with legislators to introduce a bill to protect the financial investment in state-owned historic assets by requiring the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to develop a biennial report on stewardship of state-owned properties.
The report provides a priority list of significant state-owned properties, on or eligible for the Virginia Landmarks Register, that are threatened with loss of historic integrity or functionality. In developing the report, the historic-resources department — in addition to significance and threat — will take into account other public interest considerations associated with landmark designation and the provision of proper care and maintenance of property. Now the department will be involved on the front end, offering recommendations about how buildings may be maintained properly and reused in mutually beneficial ways.
Approved by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Timothy Kaine, this legislation will be an effective tool to prevent the fate that could await the buildings named in your story [VCU's Nursing Education Building, the Murphy Hotel-8th Street Office Building, A.D. Williams Clinic and West Hospital]. This bill is a first step. More needs to be accomplished to strengthen this process, but progress begins with that first step. The Art and Architecture Review Board provides well-qualified guidance to state agencies. Its work, combined with cooperative planning between the state and the city, complemented with public participation, can ensure good stewardship of our public buildings and can keep preservation from becoming crisis management.
Elizabeth S. Kostelny
APVA Preservation Virginia