On August 30, 2021, the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) announced $7.27 million in Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization Grants to 11 recipients in 10 states to support the restoration, reuse and preservation of historic buildings in rural communities across the country.
These grants mark the third year of funding for the program honoring the late Paul Bruhn, executive director of the Preservation Trust of Vermont for nearly 40 years.
State and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices, Certified Local Governments, and nonprofits are eligible to apply for funding to support a subgrant program to fund multiple preservation projects in their rural jurisdictions.
“This National Park Service program not only supports historic preservation, but also fosters economic development in rural communities,” said NPS Deputy Director Shawn Benge.
“By funding the rehabilitation of historic properties, rural areas across the country will be improved and strengthened,” he added.
This year’s grants will support the rehabilitation of historic properties in rural areas, including programs in local communities led by the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation in Wheeling, West Virginia; the city of Jefferson, Missouri; and DeFuniak Springs Landmarks Inc. in Florida.
Michigan provides an example of how the funds are used:
Michigan‘s Governor, Gretchen Whitmer, announced that the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) has been awarded a $750,000 Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization Grant.
“Michigan’s shoreline communities are travel destinations that that serve as economic, social, and cultural hubs and play a vital role in the state’s economy,” said Gov. Whitmer. “This funding will help property owners in these critical communities continue to invest in their historic properties, which contribute to the identity and economic vitality that make our Great Lakes communities such an important part of Michigan’s identity.”
The federal grant will be used to fund the SHPO’s Resilient Lakeshore Heritage Program, aimed at addressing immediate needs in the state’s rural communities along all four Great Lakes coastlines in Michigan and promoting long-term strategies that convey the role of historic preservation in supporting vibrant, culturally-rich places. Through the program, SHPO and its partners at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) will support applicants with rehabilitation projects in communities that participate in SHPO’s Certified Local Government (CLG) program, MEDC’s Michigan Main Street program, or MEDC’s Redevelopment Ready Communities program – three community-focused programs that recognize historic preservation as a meaningful component of economic development and community identity.
“Historic downtowns and corridors are a key element in the success of Michigan’s lakeshore communities serving as economic engines, conveying important stories about the development of areas along the Great Lakes, and providing the foundation that draws residents, businesses, and visitors,” said Michigan’s State Historic Preservation Officer Mark A. Rodman. “This program will directly support preservation projects that have an immediate impact and provide the catalyst for long-term preservation strategies that direct the future of these communities.”
The SHPO application received bipartisan Congressional support from members including U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, U.S. Senator Gary Peters, U.S. Representative Jack Bergman and U.S. Representative Fred Upton.
“Grant funding for historic rehabilitation can be difficult for property owners and developers to obtain,” said Michigan Historic Preservation Network President David Jackson. “Through this grant award, the SHPO will be able to provide such an opportunity to Michigan’s rural coastal communities. MHPN commends the SHPO for securing this funding for Michigan.”
Eligible properties will include commercial, industrial, civic, mixed-use and community-oriented properties in downtown cores and along prominent community corridors. Properties must be listed in the National Register of Historic Places or be determined eligible for listing prior to the start of the project. Emphasis will be placed on “shovel ready” stabilization and rehabilitation projects and those that revitalize or activate underutilized or vacant properties.
“This opportunity to support historic rehabilitation projects is crucial in preserving the character and memorable aspects of our communities, especially for commercial property owners who face high construction costs in today’s economy. With a lack of skilled tradespeople in our region, historic character is often sacrificed because a skillset is not present in the workforce,” said city of Charlevoix Main Street Downtown Development Authority Director Lindsey Dotson. “These funds not only provide the opportunity to help offset the costs associated with the important work of retaining the character-defining elements of our built environment but will also help educate our local tradespeople in historic preservation.”
SHPO’s grant is one of 11 that was awarded this year to recipients in 10 states to support the preservation of historic buildings in rural communities across the country.
“This National Park Service program not only supports historic preservation, but also fosters economic development in rural communities,” said NPS Deputy Director Shawn Benge. “By funding the rehabilitation of historic properties, rural areas across the country will be improved and strengthened.”
Focused on the historic preservation of culturally or archaeologically significant sites throughout the state, Michigan’s State Historic Preservation Office’s main function is to provide technical assistance to local communities in their efforts to identify, evaluate, designate, interpret and protect Michigan’s historic above- and below-ground resources. SHPO also administers an incentives program that includes federal tax credits and pass-through grants available to certified local governments.
“I was thrilled to lean that Michigan has been selected to receive $750K through the Resilient Lakeshore Heritage Subgrant Program. This program is a wonderful opportunity for beautiful shoreline communities such as Cheboygan to preserve the historic places and natural spaces that are so important not only to our heritage, but our positive growth and momentum,” said Cheboygan Main Street Downtown Development Authority Interim Director Katie Duczkowski. “In places where coastline meets community, you’ll find that special glow that makes you proud to call Michigan home.”
Congress appropriates funding for the program through the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF). The HPF uses revenue from federal oil leases on the Outer Continental Shelf, providing assistance for a broad range of preservation projects without expending tax dollars.
Congress appropriated $7.5 million for FY21 funding with applications planned to be available in late Fall of 2021.
Photo of downtown Wheeling, West Virginia courtesy of Erin Yeager.