Fred Faust responds to Lowell Sun attack on historic preservation

Fred Faust, a former director of the Lowell Historic Preservation Commission, responds to Lowell Sun publisher Jim Campanini’s recent attack on historic preservation in Lowell.  Fred left the following as a comment to my Sunday Week in Review article but since the issue is of critical importance to Lowell, I thought it deserving of a new post:

I’d like to weigh in on the Lowell Sun’s desire to have the Lowell Historic Board be hit by lightning. I am only exaggerating slightly. Here is the response to Jim Campanini’s editorial comments criticizing the Lowell Historic Board which deserves to be pilloried for explaining to Sal Lupoli that perhaps Lowell’s most visible mill should undergo an architectural design process in keeping with our nationally significant status. This revealed itself in a childish rant and demonstrated a failure to understand Lowell’s basic commitment to historic preservation as economic development. Here were my comments.

This is a fairly vindictive and unbalanced opinion for a newspaper that in a May, 2013 special edition called the result of historic preservation “Miracle in Mill City.” It continued on to describe “the magnificent rehabilitation and rebirth” of Lowell and its mills. Lowell made a compact back in 1978 with the federal and state governments to provide standards to preserve nationally significant assets. The National Park delivered $40 million in development and preservation funds with its founding. A billion dollars followed over the years with new investment in older buildings. Wouldn’t a hundred other cities make this trade off? Wishing lightning strikes on city agencies is hardly responsible and does not encourage a dialogue regarding more flexible standards. If economic development is responding to the loudest and most uncooperative critics, I choose the quality of standards epitomized by the Lowell National Historical Park. I choose to preserve our heritage and culture. Please wake up and appreciate the assets and teamwork that mark Lowell as one of the best middle sized cities in America. Jim, the baby does not need to be thrown out with the bath water.

Fred Faust
Former Aide, Paul E. Tsongas
Former Director, Lowell Historic Preservation Commission
Present Business Owner, Lowell MA

13 Responses to Fred Faust responds to Lowell Sun attack on historic preservation

  1. Laura says:

    I moved to downtown in large part because of the historic district. The preservation standards make downtown Lowell what it is: charming, unique. Without exception, friends and family who visit me say how beautiful the city is.

  2. W1GFF says:

    and the preservation standards are part of what make the downtown unappealing for businesses to locate and operate there. We had to put up with a building with peeling paint for 3 years while the historic (or as I have always called it the hysterical commission) decided what shade of green the repainting should be.

  3. Publius says:

    I seem to remember that many years that the Lowell Historic Preservation Commission made an attempt to ban neon signs as historically inaccurate. Yet neon signs have been around and in popular use since the early teens in the twentieth century. I know of one instance where it took a year to get a sign approved with only minor changes.

    The commission is so hopelessly mired in the nineteenth century that I am surprised that they allow electricity and cars downtown.

  4. Fred Faust says:

    No one is saying that there can’t be more give and take. Also, who is a fan of regulators? The alternatives, however, are much worse. If not for standards, we might not have the Market Mills, home of restored housing, the LTC and National Park Visitor Center. Also, the former Wang building now Middlesex Community College would be concrete and many other important buildings would have been lost. I believe that some of these complaints are urban legends as well. The owner that had to wait three years for a paint color, etc. If the Historic Board in Lowell is being criticized for not allowing new ideas for old buildings, visit the Nobis building on Middlesex Street. It’s a great blend of old and new, and a sustainable building too. A cooperative design by the company, architect and Historic Board. Historic preservation IS economic development. You can see a photo at the edge group facebook page.

  5. Jack Mitchell says:

    I fear Mr. Faust is wasting his time, pointing out the nose on Lowell’s face. Campi and his compatriots are determined to cut it off, out of spite.

    With nothing to lose, anonymous folks, like Publius, comfortably whistle past the graveyard of logic & reason. Sadly, we have Councilors that put their names, faces and reputations on the line; as they parrot the hollow rhetoric, spoon fed to them by Campi and the WCAP cabal like so much pablum.

    Knowing Lowell, as I do, this assault on the Historic Board is merely a precursor. Obviously, some shadowy sugar daddy has whispered sweet nothings into a few, select ears. The Historic Board has been painted as an ‘obstacle.’ Nothing like some vacuous cheerleaders, deployed well, to overcome Lowell’s good sense.

  6. Publius says:

    Jack Mitchell did not like my historic preservation comments. He attacks my anonymity merely because I disagree with him. There were three other anonymous commenters, that agreed with him. Yet he chose not to bring them to the woodshed.

  7. Jack Mitchell says:

    Nothing personal, Publius. You’re just a stand in for the many faceless opinions I see. I thought their dominion was being reduced to Lowell Sun comments.

    Then, there are the shadowy sugar daddies, of course. They like to use sock puppets, media puppets and political puppets as flimsy surrogates.

  8. Brian says:

    Earlier this week the White Eagle on Market St was demolished. Some might say good riddance to an old bar in a rundown neighborhood thinking whatever takes its place will be better. That’s wishful thinking. Mixed-use buildings are exactly the type of buildings the Acre needs more of to increase opportunity for small business owners, provide jobs to locals, provide low-cost housing, and generate taxes for the city.

    Whatever is built there will likely be single-use and surrounded by ample parking(suburban policy imposed in an urban setting). This will only furthur ensconse the Acre in a cycle of mediocrity at best and generational poverty at worst. Eliminating parking minimums would reduce costs for developers, reduce rents, reduce congestion, increase developable land, increase taxable properties, and increase peoples disposable income, to name a few positives. Eliminating parking requirements creates a “virtuous circle” effect.

    The Acre isn’t inherently bad nor was the White Eagle building. The Acre lacks physical access to opportunity and jobs. Who would want to walk within feet of speeding cars on Dutton St? The mistakes of the past such as bulldozing Little Canada and constructing single-use public housing will haunt the Acre for the foreseeable future. Note: I believe in public housing just not so concentrated. Present day regulations shouldn’t compound those mistakes.

    UML is buying up properties and demolishing them for parking just up the street. 193 Pawtucket St is next. The Acre is being slaughtered and no one is saying peep. Where is the historic preservation commission and concerned stakeholders?

  9. Fred Faust says:

    Brian, all good points. I’m going to suggest that we take this up at the next Lowell Heritage Partnership meeting and start a dialogue with the City, CBA and other institutions.