May is National Preservation Month. As we celebrate GSA’s stewardship successes with stories about our historic buildings’ noteworthy past, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that historic preservation is actually about the present and the future. It is about realizing our Legacy Vision to sustainably maximize the utility of our finest historic buildings to meet changing workplace demands and contribute to livable communities.
History and historic buildings are ripe with myths. Before the 1966 passage of the National Historic Preservation Act, preservation efforts often focused on safeguarding sites associated with national heroes. While GSA’s inventory includes many nationally significant public buildings, it also includes technologically innovative structures, like the boldly cantilevered U.S. Tax Court in Washington, landmark medical institutions like St. Elizabeth’s hospital, now the first permanent home for the U.S. Coast Guard component of the Department of Homeland Security headquarters; and a railroad station, war memorial, hotel, exhibition building and two public schools now housing federal courts. Whether we call it historic preservation or cultural heritage conservation, the ethic has matured into a comprehensive approach that embraces diversity, sustainability, technology, economic development, and change.
The success of our day-to-day stewardship relies on committed maintenance, safe, secure and efficient operations, collaborative planning and creative design to ensure sound and innovative space solutions. At the Southeast Federal Center, formerly part of the Washington Navy Yard, GSA’s public-private redevelopment is a catalyst for neighborhood revitalization. World War I and II-era industrial buildings adapted to house a mix of federal agencies, residents, businesses and recreational open space enrich and energize this emergent waterfront neighborhood.
People are often surprised to learn that historic buildings do not cost more than other buildings to maintain and operate. In fact, historic buildings led the way in the our first wave of LEED Platinum ratings at the 1936 Hipolito F. Garcia Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse in San Antonio, Texas; the 1936 Federal Building at 50 United Nations Plaza in San Francisco; and the 1918 Wayne Aspinall Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse in Grand Junction, Colorado, which is also our first target net zero energy building.
Historic buildings also assist in achieving federal Reduce the Footprint goals as anchors in agency space consolidations. GSA’s seminal high performing mobile workplace modernization at our Washington headquarters is a model for client agencies seeking cost-effective space solutions. Supplementing historic buildings with cost saving annexes and recaptured within-the-footprint space effectively reduces our reliance on leasing and new construction. Through forward-thinking stewardship, GSA historic buildings will continue to provide viable, resilient and enduring workplaces for years to come.