This track is geared towards stewards of sacred places still in use for religious purposes. The sessions offer a road map for sound decision-making, wise investment of financial resources, and preservation of significant architectural and cultural features. The case studies, in particular, illustrate that it is possible to successfully maintain these properties and in turn ensure they will continue serving their congregations and the community at-large.
Session 1: If Only We Knew! Assessing Your Religious Property
Time: 10:45 AM – 12:00 PM
Moderator: Ann-Isabel Friedman/Director, Sacred Sites Program, New York Landmarks Conservancy
Many people tackle home improvement projects on their own, making a trip to a big box retailer or local hardware store. But occasionally homeowners are forced to admit a project is beyond their capabilities. If that realization comes once work is underway, the results might not be as anticipated and the costs substantially higher. Congregations that address maintenance of religious properties in the same way usually can expect more detrimental and longer-lasting impacts due to the physical complexities of these places. A better approach begins with a professional evaluation of property conditions. From that assessment, congregations can make informed decisions for prioritizing work, programming options, and raising and spending funds.
• Condition Reports: Randall T. Crawford is a historic preservation architect and partner at Crawford & Stearns in Syracuse. He will discuss the necessity of conducting building condition assessments, what to look at and why, and how these reports relate to repair needs, ongoing maintenance, master planning, operations, and disaster planning.
• Energy Concerns: Eric Kuchar, a weatherization specialist with the NY State Historic Preservation Office, will provide guidance on how to best assess historic religious properties when considering energy efficiency upgrades. Attendees will learn what constitutes an historic building, which significant features might be impacted by such upgrades, and how preservation standards and energy codes mutually lead to improved energy conditions.
• Ongoing Maintenance: Brian Hanson is an architect and member of the facilities committee at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Syracuse. He will speak to the importance of on-going maintenance and address issues such as changing the way maintenance is viewed, finding the source of problems, prioritizing projects, and minimizing risk and liability.
Session 2: What Do We Do Now? Tools for Your Active Religious Property
Time: 1:15 PM – 2:30 PM
Moderator: Jeanie Gleisner/Principal Planner, Community Development & Comprehensive Planning Program, Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board
Once building-related needs are understood, congregations should develop a strategy for problem solving that maximizes both human and financial resources. For some, a key first step is acknowledging their sacred place has broader historic and cultural significance. Nominating a property to the National Register of Historic Places provides that recognition. Officially identifying a religious property in this way can lead to special funding opportunities for planning, programs and construction. In addition, owners of historic sacred places can benefit from the technical assistance, advocacy and general support that come from being part of the greater preservation community.
• Historic Significance: Kathleen LaFrank, coordinator of the National Register Program for the NY State Historic Preservation Office, will present the criteria and process for nominating properties to the Register. She also will discuss landmark designation under municipal preservation laws, noting the difference between this recognition and Register listing.
• Funding Possibilities: Ann-Isabel Friedman is director of the New York Landmarks Conservancy Sacred Sites Program, which will be the focus of her presentation. In addition she also will provide information about similar public and private funding sources available to religious properties, noting what these funders look for in grantees.
• Preservation Networking: Julian Adams, director of Community Preservation Services with the NY State Historic Preservation Office, will discuss the various players in the statewide preservation community. Attendees will gain an introduction to local and regional preservation advocacy organizations as well as learn about the benefits of connecting with these groups.
Session 3: How They Make It Work: Successful Religious Properties
Time: 2:45 PM – 4:00 PM
Moderator: Tania Werbizky/Regional Director of Technical and Grant Programs for Central and Western New York and the Southern Tier, Preservation League of New York State, Inc.
Just keeping the lights on can be a struggle for some congregations. With shrinking memberships and aging infrastructure, it’s all they can do to pay the power company and make sure the electrical system will not short-out when the furnace kicks on. For these folks undertaking a major repair, updating conditions to meet code requirements, or rebounding from the effects of a natural disaster are unimaginable. Yet many congregations have been able to keep their sacred places open for worship, as well as in service to the larger community, through a combination of long-range planning, trial-and-error, and a bit of luck.
• Grace Episcopal Church, Syracuse NY: John Auwaerter, Property Committee co-chair, and Warden Donald Fudge will review two decades of property challenges at Grace Church. Topics will include planning, funding and execution of deferred and cyclical maintenance, major building repair and rehabilitation projects, and landscape improvements. They also will discuss opportunities presented by a recent building disaster.
• Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, Buffalo NY: The Rev. Andrew J. Ludwig has been pastor at Lafayette Avenue since 2007. He will present the serious questions faced by the shrinking congregation of a property too large and too costly to maintain, and the difficult choices made to ensure its survival. In sharing this story, Rev. Ludwig will describe the creative strategies and funding opportunities central to the renewal and rebirth of this 1894 landmark.
• Corpus Christi Church, Buffalo NY: James Serafin, president of the Friends of Corpus Christi, Inc., will give an overview of the congregation’s response to the planned closure of the parish. His remarks will address the initial response to this unanticipated crisis as well as efforts to work with the diocesan hierarchy. Mr. Serafin also will touch on general organization, long-range planning and fundraising.
• Temple Concord, Syracuse NY: Judith Stander is a long-time member and lay leader of Temple Society of Concord, and currently chairs the Volunteer Committee. She will discuss on-going efforts both to maintain this 1911 landmark designed by Syracuse architects Taylor & Bonta, and also to strengthen the social and spiritual needs of the congregation.
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