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Doan Says Key to Successful Historic Preservation is Cooperation

Remarks by
 Lurita Alexis Doan
Administrator
U.S. General Services Administration
Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
Business Meeting
Washington, DC

November 7, 2007

 

Thank you very much chairman John Nau.

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I’m pleased to be here this morning, and honored that GSA has been reappointed to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

As steward of more than 425 of this nation’s historic properties, our agency has an enormous on-going responsibility. GSA has worked extremely hard – particularly over the past decade – to fulfill its mission and earn a reputation as a leader in federal preservation.

Partners like the council help in countless ways.

An example: last month I was in New York for the dedication of the African Burial Ground Memorial. 

Nearly two decades have gone into understanding this unparalleled discovery.  The Burial Ground is America’s newest national monument, one that tells the story of over 400 African Americans whose remains were discovered during the early construction stages of a federal building in lower Manhattan.

While many partners contributed, it was the invaluable oversight of the ACHP, in particular Charlene Vaughn and Laura Henley Dean, that guided us through our memorandum of agreement and toward positive, appropriate solutions. 

I encourage all of you to go by the memorial during your next visit to New York. 

GSA likes to think all of our buildings have architectural, cultural and historic significance. We like to think of them as the crown jewels of the federal building inventory.

So do our three main representatives at this conference: David Winstead, Commissioner of the Public Buildings Service, Rolando Rivas-Camp, Director of the GSA Center for Historic Buildings, and Chief Architect Les Shepherd, who are all here today.

GSA now has 11 individually listed National Historic Landmarks and 52 buildings that contribute to National Historic Landmark districts. 

We’re in the process of elevating the status of five buildings to National Historic Landmark status and have undertaken a thematic study on our custom houses to elevate those as well.

Our historic buildings help define who we are as a nation and in some communities are the only visible presence of the federal government.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank John Nau for all he’s done to elevate preservation within the federal government and our nation. 

In particular, Preserve America has provided renewed focus on federal preservation efforts and has added emphasis to private efforts to preserve, educate and promote our nation’s cultural resources.

I was very pleased to learn that GSA is partnering with DOI, DHS and DoD on the Preserve America Summit recommendation to increase awareness and access to information on how to integrate historic preservation into security requirements.

This past year, when we stood up GSA’s newest division, the Office of Emergency Response and Recovery, we included an historic preservation team that will be headed by Rolando Rivas-Camp and will ensure that historic preservation or buildings and art will be a priority during times of national emergency.

Heritage tourism is also a major component of the Preserve America Executive Order, and we look for every opportunity to share facilities with the general public.  The Audubon Society’s Insectarium in the New Orleans Custom House, where part of the Preserve America Summit was held just last year, is a great example of a private-public partnership using Section 111 Authority.

But I want to address one of the most important issues facing us today in federal preservation – cooperation and compromise. 

Preservation is a mission our two agencies share, but we are not the only stakeholders in this process. 

We share this responsibility with other agencies and with the larger preservation community.  And we are responsible to future generations for the gift of history. 

It is true symbiosis, as each of us relies on the other for balance and perspective. 

Without the tenant agencies, GSA would have no one to occupy our portfolio of landmarks and other historic buildings. Without the preservation community, we would not have the strong advocacy for protecting these national treasures and ensuring our program is supported. 

And without the council and other regulatory agencies, we would have no one to help us find the best balance of use and respect for the historic resources. 

But without GSA, there would be no one to manage the process and not allow our differing perspectives and approaches to lead us to gridlock. 

Yet, for GSA to succeed in its role, we must have your support.  We need each of the stakeholders to come to the table with an open mind and accept that while others may have a different perspective, they have reasons for their position. 

And that none of these reasons are any more or less valid than your own. 

When I look at a project like the West Campus of St. Elizabeths, I am filled with both promise and pride.  I am excited to think that we can preserve this incredible landmark, while strengthening the security of our nation and bringing needed economic development across the river. 

I am concerned that if we do not work together to find a design solution that meets the needs of the Department of Homeland Security, yet is still respectful of this important cultural resource, we will lose the chance to preserve it for future generations. 

The status quo is to no one’s benefit beyond mother nature and her deteriorating effects on these structures. 

This is not the legacy any of us wants. 
Not at GSA,
Not the Council,
Not the preservation community,
Nor even at DHS. 

But let’s not kid ourselves; we can so easily let this rare opportunity slip from our fingers. 

If we continue to see the issues solely from our individual perspectives, we will give those who want to use this funding for other purposes their opportunity. 

Like our founding fathers, we must all hang together for the common good. 

The Council has helped us in the past when confronted with these kinds of issues, and we need the council’s help again.

So my message and my plea to everyone involved is to think of the greater good and work together to find a solution. 

Not a solution solely for DHS.  Not a solution solely for preservationists.  Not a solution for DC or even GSA.  But a solution for America — one which we can all say with pride — we made this happen — In this time — Because we worked together. 

Thank you.