Curtis Block Finally Receives Historic Designation, My Two Cents On Historic Designation And Preservation

Lakewood’s Planning Commission finally took action with the second vote required to designate the Curtis Block at 14501 Detroit Avenue historic under Chapter 1134 of local code. The property was deemed eligible for designation in May. A full eight months later, designation was unanimously approved at January’s Planning Commission meeting. The structure is now protected under local ordinance, adding it to the growing list of designated structures in our community. Per local code, designation requires two votes; the first vote is based on eligibility and the second is to actually approve designation. The ordinance was changed to this two-part process in part to address situations where an owner does not support the designation of their properties. As seen throughout our country, property rights can be the reason for a lively debate.

Preservation and historic designation are not dirty words and should not be viewed as infringements on personal property rights. Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding in our community about what our local ordinance does and doesn’t do. At the end of the day, to be clear, our local ordinance does not prohibit a property owner from changing their structure or even tearing it down. It does not make anyone do anything to their property. However, most exterior changes do require additional review for appropriateness. Just horrible! To expect current owners to be stewards for future generations! Not to mention, the fact that historic or architectural elements and details are what make properties and our community, so special and VALUABLE. In fact, did you know that Lakewood, as an entire community, is eligible to be a national historic district? Can you imagine the crazy marketing we could do with that?!

The results of preservation are impactful: stable and increased property values, job creation, sense of place to name a few. I have personally been involved with enough projects to know first-hand; there is nothing greener than working with an existing structure. Speaking as one who has met challenges that others thought were crazy, I can say that there is an incredible sense of satisfaction on many levels in saving what was destined for a landfill. While some projects were extreme, even projects saving little details proved worthwhile.

A sense of where we came from is important to the success of our future. During the proposed demolition of the Detroit Theater for the relocation of McDonald's, I remember a city leader telling me he could care less about the past, his concern was the future. I contend you can’t successfully do the future without regard to the past. Owners come and go but structures stand the test of time. We are only stewards for future generations.

I would like to thank everyone who supported the designation of the Curtis Block. I am also grateful to the administration for their commitment to seeing the structure get back to productive use. Designation of the Curtis Block, in addition to the many other worthy Lakewood structures, is long overdue. There are so many properties, and districts, that should be designated; there is much work to be done. The city does not prepare nominations; it is up to individual property owners and volunteers to research and complete the necessary application for designation. Through the Lakewood Historical Society, volunteers have been working to forward preservation efforts in Lakewood. If you are interested in helping or learning more, please email your contact info to museum@lakewoodhistory.org.

Hilary Schickler serves on the Board of Trustees for the Lakewood Historical Society and on the City of Lakewood Heritage Advisory Board. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily any group she is associated with.

Hilary Schickler

Hilary Schickler serves on the Board of Trustees for the Lakewood Historical Society and on the City of Lakewood Heritage Advisory Board. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily any group she is associated with.

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Volume 12, Issue 6, Posted 12:14 PM, 03.16.2016