I have a confession to make. I am one of those so called hysterical preservationists. The reason why and what my passion has to do with TURBO might surprise you. It’s not because I like “old stuff” or because I find turn-of-the-century neighborhoods “quaint.” It’s because I see first-hand how an asset-based community development approach helps communities grow thoughtfully. Reusing old buildings is certainly environmentally responsible, and the restoration economy is the only type of economy that can grow without limit so it only makes environmental and economic sense to reuse what we have. But all those old buildings and spaces would be meaningless without people.
Preserving our historic places is preserving a sense of place, providing a grounded-ness that people seek whether they are looking to relocate for a job or thinking about starting a new business. People are the real key. Not just buildings. Not just bus stops. People. Historic neighborhoods and commercial areas were first created with people in mind. We just need to find a way to preserve the positive aspects and enhance what we already have to meet modern needs. “The key to success today lies in developing a world-class people climate,” according to the Michigan Development Commission.
Preservation and the work of TURBO are two ways we can connect people and place, whether it is a literal physical connection like TURBO highlighting walkable connections to shopping in Green Hills, or whether it’s a connection to the past through living in an old shot gun house that provided worker housing for a mill, running a pet store that connects rescued shelter animals with young people facing adversity in an old Victorian (check out Crossroads Campus in Germantown), or just joining friends for a meal in what used to be an old drug store or warehouse. Place connected to people is what keeps our commercial areas viable, and it’s what helps our neighborhoods grow gracefully and thoughtfully. We won’t accomplish it with one tool and one group. Historic Preservation and TURBO are a perfect pairing: two different but complimentary means towards the same goal.