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The Georgia Trust Protects Places in Peril

By S. Mathur

The mission of the Georgia Trust is to "work for the preservation and revitalization of Georgia's diverse historic resources and advocate their appreciation, protection and use." Traci Clark explains how this is achieved.

"Our goal is to increase the number of historic buildings, places and related landscapes that are protected, preserved and actively used across the state. We aim to broaden understanding of the enormous environmental and economic impact of preservation as an essential tool for community revitalization, quality of life enhancement and sustainability."

There are a number of programs through which the Trust pursues its mission. The annual "Places in Peril" list identifies ten endangered sites from the nominations submitted by people around the state. The perils facing these sites range from demolition, neglect, lack of maintenance, inappropriate development to insensitive public policy. The Trust provides preservation tools, partnerships and resources to individuals, organizations and communities to preserve and restore or rehabilitate the properties in peril.

The Revolving Fund program helps owners trying to sell their endangered historic properties to find responsible buyers who will commit to rehabilitating the property after purchase within a stated time period, which is usually two years. Buyers also sign a conservation easement which lays out measures that will protect the site. In general, buildings that are 50 years or older can be classed as historic, although in some cases special historical or architectural features may justify inclusion of newer buildings.

Very often, the best way to preserve the historic character of a neighborhood is through revitalization. Tax credits and incentives encourage owners of historic properties to carry out rehabilitation projects. Rehabilitation differs from restoration, which has the goal of restoring buildings to their original state as far as possible. Rehabilitation by contrast seeks to make historical buildings over for contemporary use.

The Georgia Trust also has a strong commitment to sustainability and green design. Clark points out that "There's a saying that is often used in the preservation community -- "the greenest building is the one that is already built." This statement holds true as rehabilitating buildings means less construction debris ends up at the landfill."

The first green building certification program for historic buildings has been created by the Georgia Trust. It highlights the sustainable features of historical buildings and provides guidelines for alterations to make historic buildings more efficient in terms off energy and water use.

The Talking Walls program trains teachers in heritage education, through the use of resources such as historic photos, maps, oral histories and historic buildings and by linking these to the statewide mandated curriculum. A series of walks and events open to the public keep the community informed about the work of the Georgia Trust and the importance of historic preservation. The Spring and Fall Rambles offer special tours and events at historic homes not usually open to the public. The Rambles attract hundreds of visitors and are hosted in different locations.

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