After 40 years’ operation, Preservation Durham is rethinking what it does, and inviting the public to join in.
“We have 40 years’ worth of programs that we run,” executive director Wendy Hillis said. “Part of this came out of ... starting to question how they support our mission and, better yet, what real needs are they addressing and what benefits are they creating?”
So the organization has engaged Raleigh preservation consultant Mary Ruffin Hanbury to conduct a “needs assessment.” Her client list includes the Historic Savannah Foundation, the Baltimore National Heritage Area and the New Jersey Heritage Tourism Commission.
Assessment plans include four “community listening meetings” in April and May and is taking an online survey (nando.com/presd).
The 26-question survey asks about opportunities for historic preservation, threats to historic preservation and, from several angles, opinions about Preservation Durham and its programs such as local tours, a revolving fund for buying and reselling historic properties and its Renovators Network.
Preservation Durham, located at 115 Market St., was formed, as the Historic Preservation Society, in 1974 in large part as a reaction to the demolition of landmark buildings such as the Italianate Union Station train depot, the Duke family’s Four Acres mansion and the Hayti business district.
Its projects have included preserving the Stagville plantation buildings in northeast Durham County, now a state historic site, publishing the Durham Architectural and Historic Inventory and annual tours of historic homes.
The “needs assessment” is meant to inform revising what Preservation Durham does “to better meet community needs,” she said.
“Durham is rapidly changing and our landscape as Preservation Durham is rapidly changing, now that the Museum of Durham History is here, and other organizations,” Hillis said.
“How do you create a sense of place and continuity when so many new people are coming in?”
There’s also a practical consideration.
“This goes back to funding and the funding landscape that we have now, which is very competitive,” Hillis said. “To be relevant and to acquire funding, you need to provide real solutions to real needs that people have. That’s the base for it.”
Shaping our community
▪ What’s happening: Preservation Durham, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving Durham’s historic architecture and built environment, is rethinking its mission.
▪ What you can do: Preservation Durham is conducting a Durham-wide needs assessment. Tell them what issues are most important to you and what programs your neighborhood needs in a survey at nando.com/presd
▪ What’s next: Attend a community meeting (dates in April to be announced) at the downtown Public Library, 300 N. Roxboro St.; Walltown Park Recreation Center, 1308 W. Club Blvd.; Forest Hills Park Clubhouse, 1639 University Drive; and Y.E. Smith School, 2410 E. Main St.