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Four Things We Learned at the New York State 2015 Preservation Conference

  1. Know your presentation arena. 

LaLuce Mitchell and Courtney Creenan-Chorley gave a presentation in the sanctuary of the First United Methodist Church in Geneva, NY.  Opened in 1914, replacing a more modest structure, the church is quite the presence in the urban fabric, situated on top of the hill between downtown and Hobart and William Smith Colleges.  Laid out in the Akron plan (a radial plan like a baseball diamond, rather than a rectangular plan) the sanctuary itself can hold a congregation of 2,200 and the most significant feature is two larger stained glass windows on either side of the altar.

Good thing we got there early to prepare: a small bat made its way into the church, making everyone wish the amazing stained glass windows were operable. Maybe it was just really interested in agriculture preservation.

  1. Get out and explore the host city.

There was a lot to learn about preservation between the 20 or so sessions offered as part of the conference.  But let’s be honest, its spring, and after this winter, everyone was eager to explore Geneva and learn about its history.  A walking tour was given on Thursday of the downtown by the Geneva Historical Society (  We learned about the creation of the Smith Opera house, the rise and fall of downtown, and methods that are being used to restore and reuse many of the original structures of downtown Geneva.  Our favorite building was a former YMCA building circa 1898.

  1. Align your three A’s.

Our friends from Preservation Studios ( reminded us that in order to have a successful tax credit project, it is important for clients to have their attorney, accountant, and architect engaged from the start.   It is crucial all three be experienced in tax credit projects and have a working knowledge of historic preservation principles.  Most certainly your architect!  There are many funding source opportunities available in addition to state and federal tax credits.  Some include NYS grants.  This is the sort of expertise that Flynn Battaglia Architects can bring to your potential project – we have worked with many entities to develop plans for their historic restoration or adaptive reuse of historic building projects.

  1. Believe in your city if you want others to believe in it too.

In her keynote address “Placemaking: The Ultimate Art Form” Cynthia Nikitin of the Project for Public Spaces repeated the phrase “no one will believe/invest in you if you don’t believe/invest in yourself”.  She has found this applies to cities, towns, and public spaces just as much as it does to people.  The corollary is also true – once you start investing in a place, other people (often ones you never expect to) will also see the effort and enhancements and invest.  Ms. Nikitin gave the strong revival that has occurred in Corning, NY over the last thirty years as an example of this, but the concept could also easily apply as the source of downtown Buffalo’s recent revival.

(former YMCA building circa 1898, Geneva NY)


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