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At its most basic, historic preservation is about keeping old places alive, in active use, and relevant to the needs of communities today. As cities across America experience a remarkable renaissance, and more and more young, diverse families choose to live, work, and play in historic neighborhoods, the promise and potential of using our older and historic buildings to revitalize our cities is stronger than ever.
This urban resurgence is a national phenomenon, boosting cities from Cleveland to Buffalo and Portland to Pittsburgh. Experts offer a range of theories on what is driving the return to the city—from the impact of the recent housing crisis to a desire to be socially engaged, live near work, and reduce automobile use. But there’s also more to it. Time and again, when asked why they moved to the city, people talk about the desire to live somewhere distinctive, to be some place rather than no place. Often these distinguishing urban landmarks are exciting neighborhoods—Miami boasts its Art Deco district, New Orleans the French Quarter. Sometimes, as in the case of Baltimore’s historic rowhouses, the most distinguishing feature is the urban fabric itself.
While many aspects of this urban resurgence are a cause for celebration, the changes have also brought to the forefront issues of access, affordable housing, inequality, sustainability, and how we should commemorate difficult history. This book speaks directly to all of these issues.
In The Past and Future City, Stephanie Meeks, the president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, describes in detail, and with unique empirical research, the many ways that saving and restoring historic fabric can help a city create thriving neighborhoods, good jobs, and a vibrant economy. She explains the critical importance of preservation for all our communities, the ways the historic preservation field has evolved to embrace the challenges of the twenty-first century, and the innovative work being done in the preservation space now.
This book is for anyone who cares about cities, places, and saving America’s diverse stories, in a way that will bring us together and help us better understand our past, present, and future.
"Stephanie Meeks explains how historic preservation is one of the most exciting aspects of revitalizing both large and small communities. Understanding, protecting, and enhancing our heritage makes these communities come alive. Ms. Meeks provides a guide to help enrich any community."
— Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Co-Chair of the Congressional Historic Preservation Caucus
"With passion, conviction, and clarity, this book underlines the importance of celebrating all of America's rich and diverse history and makes a compelling case for preservation as the key urban planning tool of the twenty-first century. In Birmingham, we've seen firsthand how historic buildings rejuvenate neighborhoods. Here, Stephanie Meeks takes the case nationwide."
— William Bell, Mayor of Birmingham, Alabama
"Thoughtful and engaging, Meeks reveals how historic preservation is about more smart, managed change than simple conservation."
"An impassioned and well-argued case for the economic, environmental, and social value of preservation and active resuse of the nation's historic buildings...the book is an articulate call to action."
— Publishers Weekly
"In The Past and Future City, Stephanie explains how preservation can enrich cities across America in a way that is both equitable and sustainable."
— Mtamanika Youngblood, Executive Director, Historic District Development Corporation
"The Past and Fuure City will offer a well-researched and clearly stated argument in favor of historic preservation as a key tool in the development of livable, prosperous cities."
"Nothing more convincingly shows the face of the new preservation movement than this visionary book. In these pages, the National Trust's president, Stephanie Meeks, shows a preservation movement dedicated to building economically vital, equitable, and sustainable cities using the raw materials of places that matter."
— Max Page, Professor of Architecture and Director of Historic Preservation, University of Massachusetts Amherst
"Meeks wrote the book not just to advocate, although she is clear that 'the combination of preservation and adaptive reuse is not just the best way forward for our cities. It is in many ways the only way forward'...The book's arguments are buttressed at every turn by quotations and detailed discussions of recent books and studies. Old-timers may profitably read it by scanning the endnotes, while newcomers and fencer-sitters will enjoy the avalanche of stories Meeks provides."
"If you thought historic preservation was just about saving grand, classic structures from the wrecking ball, you would be wrong. According to The Past and Future City...the role of historic preservation is evolving, touching not just the buildings that many consider some of the best parts of their cities, but the cities themselves."
"The US suburb may be on the wane...so suggests Stephanie Meeks in this punchy study of the 'great inversion'—the flow of younger people into historic city centres."
"[Meeks] makes a comprehensive and forceful case that historic preservation, despite the way that many view it, is actually about function, newness, and vitality...Practical and often eye-opening, The Past and Future City is a guide to a tremendously important tool for making our cities better and more livable."
— Civil Engineering
"With fervor and clarity, The Past and Future City highlights the significance of honoring the varied and vivacious history of America, and explains why and how the preservation of historic buildings and places is essential in the present and future world of urban planning."
— Traditional Building
"An extraordinary and exceptional study that is especially commended to the attention of anyone who cares about cities, places, and saving America's diverse stories as a way to help us better understand our past, present, and future."
— Midwest Book Review
"A well-researched and impassioned celebration of the role of historic preservation (conservation) in the regeneration of America's cities...an important book."
"Meeks makes a strong case for the preservation of our historic built environment, backing her beliefs up with statistical information and a wealth of examples from around the country."
— Atlanta Studies