In October, PBN celebrated its tenth anniversary. As you know, PBN was not created anew, but, rather, from the merger of two decades-old local preservation giants: the Landmark Society of the Niagara Frontier and the Preservation Coalition of Erie County. The result was a single professionally staffed, full-service organization that signaled a new day for preservation in Buffalo.
As the first ten exciting years were coming to a close, we spent this past year setting the stage for the next decade of building up the kind of leading-edge preservation organization that a region with our cultural riches deserves.
The first thing you will notice is that PBN has a new look. With help from the Oishei Foundation and consultant White Bicycle, we created a new visual brand for PBN that we feel better conveys our organizational strength and the forward-looking nature of our preservation mission. We hope you agree.
But rest assured, this is not mere window dressing. The visual branding is simply the most visible part of a year’s worth of work to update our strategic plan to ensure that we are using preservation best practices to meet our mission and to build a strong, sustainable organization for generations to come. Along with updating our strategic plan, we have adjusted our mission statement to now read: PBN identifies, protects, and promotes our unique architecture and historic legacy, and connects people to the places they love in Western New York.
The first part of the statement remains relatively the same, but we’ve added new words at the end that we thought were important to include: people and love. As preservationists, many of our traditional tools involve talking about buildings and the past, but we know that we do this work because of our belief in people and the future, and we wanted to make sure to convey that concept within our mission statement.
We also wanted to include the word love because people often come to us for help because they love their home or their neighborhood or a special place or moment in history. We wanted to be sure to recognize and honor that love as part of our mission.
Of course, we will be continuing much of our community development, technical assistance, and advocacy work in 2019, but we will also be launching two new programs in the coming months that will allow us to take a more proactive approach to working with at-risk buildings.
First, thanks to a significant gift from the Charles D. and Mary A. Bauer Foundation, PBN will be unveiling a Sacred Sites Assistance Program. As you no doubt know, religious architecture in Western New York is in crisis. There are many contributing factors, and our responses run the gamut from creation of an updated sacred spaces inventory to robust advocacy for endangered buildings. This new program will allow us to provide proactive technical assistance to small congregations who own their own buildings but are having trouble keeping up with maintenance and rehab costs. Several sources provide grant funding for religious buildings; however, National Register listing is a prerequisite for applying to them for funds. The application process for listing on the National Register can be daunting for many small religious organizations, so the Bauer Foundation grant will enable us to provide much-needed technical assistance and allow these groups to be good stewards to their historic places of worship.
Second, PBN will be launching a revolving fund for lower- income homeowners in local historic districts. The goal of the fund is to l assist these homeowners in the preservation of their property, allowing them to participate more fully in the long-term benefits of owning historic property. We also hope that this initiative will encourage other neighborhoods to seek historic district status by removing some of the perceived cost barriers.
Former Nature Conservancy president John Sawhill once said: “In the end, our society will be defined not only by what we create, but by what we refuse to destroy.” By renewing your membership every year, by attending events, and by giving to the annual appeal, you signal that our historic places and communities are important and should not be destroyed. We are honored to stand with you to protect and invest in the wonderful region we all call home, and are looking forward to continuing to promote preservation over the next ten years.