Disaster preservation

Alan Jaffe reports:

In a city whose identity is so closely associated with its historic sites, the effects of climate change and storms like Katrina and Sandy pose nightmare scenarios. What would Philadelphia be if its landmark buildings and historic districts were washed away?

Since those hurricanes in 2005 and 2012 and because of the increasing severity and frequency of major storms, preservation planners and government agencies have been taking a proactive approach, particularly in Pennsylvania, one of the most flood-prone states in the nation.

Philadelphia is the first major urban area in the U.S. to begin developing a plan to protect its historic buildings from natural disasters, and three other counties in the commonwealth are the targets of pilot projects that integrate surveys of historic resources and protective measures into their hazard mitigation plans.

Partners in the “Disaster Planning for Historic Properties Initiative” are the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office (PA SHPO) and the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management (OEM), along with other governmental agencies.

It’s fitting that the work is coming together this year – the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act, which created the National Register of Historic Places, the historic landmark list, and the state historic preservation offices. “So while we’re reflecting on our heritage, we’re also looking forward to the next 50 years with a strategy for climate change issues,” said Jeremy Young, project manager of the initiative…

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