Michigan Historic Preservation Network to host conference May 19-21

31st Annual Statewide Preservation Conference May 19-21, 2011, Saugatuck Center for the Arts

Titled "Just Add Water," the 31st annual conference presented by the Michigan Historic Preservation Network (MHPN), takes place May 19-21 in the Lake Michigan communities of Saugatuck and Douglas.

"People unfamiliar with this part of the state will be so impressed by the picturesque, 19th- and early 20th-century homes and cottages, hotels, marinas, and city parks around the harbor shared by these two communities," states Elaine Robinson, MHPN President. So spectacular is this array of land, wetlands, harbor, dunes, river, and lake that it faces constant pressure for over-development.

"Just Add Water" has proved broad enough to attract participants and speakers from around the state. As MHPN Executive Director Nancy Finegood explains, "A wide sampling of preservation projects fits under this thematic umbrella, from lighthouses along our shoreline to an historic fishing village in Leland, from an entire community that has reclaimed its waterfront in Marquette to a single covered bridge that has served Centerville for 120 years."

James Schmiechen from the local conference committee notes that in addition to capturing this statewide perspective, "our program is such that participants don't have to be from communities right on the water to find it worthwhile. From Detroit, for example, one session on a project in historic Midtown - thirty urbanized blocks in from the Detroit River - explores how any historic district can use cisterns and rain gardens to recycle its storm water."

According to State Historic Preservation Officer Brian Conway, the conference will give people the opportunity to see the results of historic preservation efforts first hand. "Historic preservation drives economic development in communities large and small and preserves the rich character and uniqueness of our towns and cities. Historic preservation contributes to our sense of place, creating attractive and livable communities while increasing tourism value." Four conference tracks present exemplary projects, look at the laws and incentives needed to protect historic properties while fostering economic growth, study hands-on preservation techniques that assure character is preserved, and present tours that illustrate the sense of place our host communities have sustained.

Special again this year will be a double-session titled "Incentives for Successful Preservation Projects." Open to the public on Friday for a low ticket price, the morning focuses on the power of integrating the historic tax credits with other incentives such as new markets tax credits and brownfield development incentives to secure conventional project financing. Additionally, tickets may be purchased for Thursday's "Michigan Modern: Its West Michigan Connections" session as well as Friday evening's Award Ceremony and Reception.

Four tours also are activities for which the public can purchase tickets. One focuses on the history and architecture of the host communities, while another, which includes a boat trip out onto Lake Michigan to view the dunes, considers today's threats from developers. A Twilight Walking Tour offers an exclusive viewing of the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society's exhibit, "Our Village Life," and a harbor-side reception. Saturday's tour allows participants to walk the private grounds of the 19th-century "Forward Movement Park," now the Presbyterian Camps.

Saturday includes an especially strong and inexpensively-priced morning program for communities protecting their own historic resources. After a visual exploration of nationally-accepted preservation standards and a session on lead paint in historic buildings, participants choose between two-hour programs for either historic district commissioners or those just beginning their preservation efforts.

Two conference highlights are free and open to the public. On Thursday evening, everyone is invited to the Community Open House and Vendors' Showcase to learn about the latest preservation products and services. On Friday, our keynote speaker, Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell, will speak on preservation's role in "Sustainability as a Frame of Mind."

To learn about the conference, find out which sessions are approved for AICP credit or may qualify for AIA credit, or learn which activities are ticketed, download the brochure at www.mhpn.org or request one at admin@mhpn.org or (517) 371-8080. Costs range from $85-$280. There are special member benefits (on-the-spot membership is available on the registration form), single-day pricing, reductions for full-time students, a very appealing early-bird discount, and low Saturday prices. The MHPN has not raised the conference's price since 2008.

The MHPN is Michigan's statewide preservation organization and the advocacy and resource group for preservationists from all backgrounds. Founded in 1981 to foster the preservation and protection of Michigan's rich cultural and architectural heritage, MHPN was the driving force behind Michigan's 1999 passage of the 25% tax credit and 2009 tax credit enhancements for the restoration of historic residential and commercial properties.