DETROIT, April 16, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- When the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) 65th Annual Conference opens on Wednesday, more than 600 professionals from across the US and more than 28 countries around the world will descend on downtown Detroit to see the city's architecture and to observe first-hand Detroiters' preservation and rehabilitation of that architecture as an urban revitalization strategy.
No group is better prepared than the SAH membership of professors, journalists, architects and designers to carry the buzz about Detroit's magnificent buildings – from early 19th century landmarks to stunning Mid-Century Moderns – to an international audience that embraces 21st-century design solutions for aging urban centers.
The Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) helped fund the conference and MSHDA's State Historic Preservation Officer, Brian Conway, is leading a pre-conference symposium specifically on historic rehabilitation and urban revitalization in Detroit. A preservation symposium is held each year in conjunction with the SAH conference.
Entitled "Retooling Detroit," this year's symposium will bring together entrepreneurs, practitioners, city and state officials and community leaders, including Detroit Director of Planning Robert Anderson, Economic Development Corporation Business Attraction Manager Mark Denson, Michigan State Housing Development Authority Deputy Director Burney Johnson and Kresge Foundation Senior Program Officer Laura Trudeau. More than ever before, this year's "local issue" – a city contemplating its post-industrial future – is resonating in communities around the globe.
Conway notes that historic areas of Detroit are at the forefront of rebirth as the city retools.
"The auto industry produced unparalleled wealth and the need for modern, world-class designers," says Conway. "Industry titans here commissioned world class corporate headquarters and homes that are icons of their time.
All of this becomes the architectural fabric for 21st-century 'placemaking' that is drawing urban entrepreneurs, corporate leaders, and the creative class from across the business spectrum to invest in Detroit."
According to Conway the preservation of historic architecture and landscapes should be an integral part of any city's strategy for economic revitalization.
"Today's best workers can choose where they want to live and today's most successful businesses want to be where the best workers want to live, said Conway. "Using our buildings, parks, waterfronts and streetscapes to create places that can attract today's most sought-after workers is Job #1 for the 21st-century city."
Helping Michigan communities use historic buildings to leverage reinvestment has been a priority for Michigan Historic Preservation Network founding member and current President Janet Kreger, a member of the Local Committee that helped plan the conference. Working more than three decades with the MHPN, Kreger welcomes SAH to Detroit.
"Its members are about to accelerate the powerful connection already being made between historic buildings and their investment potential," she states. "What they will do is draw global attention to Detroit as they pen their opinion pieces for the international press, are quoted when they lecture, and are sought for their policy opinions. Do you think for a moment that investors won't take note and recognize the return on investment on matchless buildings at unmatched prices? "
"The SAH mission of making man-made structures and landscapes relevant to contemporary cultural life is increasingly important as a growing percentage of the global population is living in cities," noted SAH Executive Director, Pauline Saliga. "We are being forced to rethink our cities, and this makes the tools of architectural history and historic preservation increasingly critical," she explained. "We have come to Detroit so our members can see how leading edge urban planning is creating the city of tomorrow."
John Gallagher, whose book Reimagining Detroit: Opportunities for Redefining an American City has sparked a "reimagining cities" movement in Great Lakes Basin and rust belt cities, will lead a roundtable for further discussion about reinventing urban America.
Gallagher, who has covered urban redevelopment for the Detroit Free Press for more than two decades, shifts focus from Detroit's decline to showcase innovative community-building work and to explore what else can be done to make Detroit more economically self-sufficient. Chris Cross of Detroit Works and Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan GreenWays Initiative Director Tom Woiwode will join Gallagher for a panel discussion. The roundtable is Friday, April 20, noon to 1:30 and is open to the public by reservation.
"The Society of Architectural Historians conference in Detroit provides an opportunity to reflect not only on Detroit's past but more over on its possible futures and the role that good design and planning can play in making the future we want," says Gallagher.
Of special interest for Detroit's economic development and tourism officials are the 100 international professionals coming to Detroit from 28 countries for the conference. Twenty-five tours to locations in and around Detroit will dig deep into the city's current and historic roles in urban history and architecture and showcase the opportunities that abound in the city, providing grist for further discussion and plenty of reasons to send students and colleagues to visit Detroit.
Conference session topics include what to do about "shrinking cities," the architecture of Fordism, and the challenge of maintaining cultural landscapes. A closing night Benefit on the 32nd floor of the iconic Guardian Building will honor YouthVille Detroit, Michigan Architectural Foundation's Architreks, and Apex Organization's Battle of the Bricks.
Visit SAH online at sah.org or the conference at sah.orgsah.org/2012. For more information about historic preservation in Michigan, visit the State Historic Preservation Office online at Michigan.gov/shpo, or the Michigan Historic Preservation Network at mhpn.org.
The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) is financed in part by a grant from the National Park Service, Department of Interior. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of the Interior. The Department of the Interior prohibits discrimination on its federally funded assistance programs. If you believe you've been discriminated against please contact the Office of Equal Opportunity, National Park Service, 1849 C. St. NW, Washington DC 20240.
The SHPO is part of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), which provides financial and technical assistance through public and private partnerships to create and preserve decent, affordable housing for low- and moderate-income residents and to engage in community economic development activities to revitalize urban and rural communities.*
*MSHDA's loans and operating expenses are financed through the sale of tax-exempt and taxable bonds as well as notes to private investors, not from state tax revenues. Proceeds are loaned at below-market interest rates to developers of rental housing, and help fund mortgages and home improvement loans. MSHDA also administers several federal housing programs. For more information, visit www.michigan.gov/mshda.
SOURCE Michigan State Housing Development Authority