The Preservation League draws statewide attention to New York’s most important and at-risk historic places through its Seven to Save list of endangered places.
“Threat: Demolition, Deterioration, Lack of Public Awareness, Loss of Visual/Architectural Integrity, Vacancy”
Effort to SAVE the SOUTH END
This past April Historic Albany Foundation was notified that our nomination of the South End-Groesbeckville Historic district would be included in the Preservation League of New York State’s 2018 Seven to Save List.
In the mid-nineteenth century, the South End-Groesbeckville National Register Historic District was one of the most densely populated areas in the city of Albany. This neighborhood development evolution reflects the city’s nineteenth-century industrial expansion and population growth and has buildings that date from the 18th century through the 21st century. German and Irish immigrants who worked in Albany’s nearby port socialized, worshiped, and found entertainment in the South End, all within walking distance to their homes. Just as the South End represents, the typical growth and development patterns that were characteristic for Albany as a port city and urban neighborhood with a mix of immigrant cultural communities, it is also an example of the fate of many US city neighborhoods that during the Urban Renewal movement of the mid-twentieth century experienced the flight of families out of the neighborhood, and the resulting widespread abandonment and soaring vacancy rates. Left vacant, buildings deteriorated and many were torn down due to code violations and safety concerns.
Today, the South End neighborhood best represents the issue of vacancy and the statewide placarding of Red Xs as part of the 2015 adoption of the International Fire code. These red Xs, while well intended to signify potential internal hazards to first responders have had the resulting impact of increasing blight, calling attention to disinvestment, and in Albany has in fact led to an uptick in emergency demolition actions.
For the South End-Groesbeckville Historic District, first listed on the National Register in 1984, demolitions have reduced the stock of approximately 550 contributing buildings to under 400 – and loss of nearly 30%. Unfortunately, due to public safety concerns, these demolitions continue. The State Historic Preservation Office and members of the Historic Resources Commission have expressed concerns about the integrity of this historic district as a result of the extensive amount of loss. Historic Albany Foundation is hoping to influence a moratorium on emergency demolition actions, to encourage more stabilization and mothballing of these historic buildings. We are hoping that by working with our State Legislators John McDonald and Patricia Fahy, we can find a way to better to mark buildings, enable our local Fire Department to use technology such as GPS locators, and QR scan codes to access the necessary information on a building as well as to better define the process for remediation before buildings are targeted by vandals. As a National Register Historic District, these properties come with financial incentives such as preservation grants for non-profit owned properties and rehabilitation tax credit programs for privately owned properties. However, if the historic district status is lost due to compromised integrity, these incentives disappear.
This Seven to Save designation calls attention to the statewide issue of historic building vacancy. We are not alone in this struggle, as most urban centers throughout upstate New York, are faced with similar challenges. Working with the Preservation League, our local partners such as the Albany County Land Bank, Albany Housing Authority and the South End Improvement Corp. and the City of Albany, we can discuss strategies for stimulating investment and develop a model that can be used elsewhere within the state, while preventing the de-listing of the South End as one of Albany’s oldest National Register and local historic districts. The Albany Times Union published an article on the South End as a Preservation League of New York State’s Seven to Save property.
“Albany’s South End eyed for preservation”
Times Union Article
April 10, 2018 by David Lombardo