Economic development. Tax breaks and incentives. Underutilized historic properties. More jobs in Athens. Sound familiar? These terms refer to many hot topics in our community, and on Feb. 4, ACHF hosted an impressive array of speakers to talk about these issues in an innovative and often surprising way. The property of inspiration was Southern Mill, the 18-acre property on which ACHF holds a façade easement. The symposium was the third event in the “Preservation Matters” series this year, and our theme has been “Historic Preservation: Inherently Green.” The event was coordinated by the Preservation Matters subcommittee, under the ACHF Education Committee. Lisa Dore, Rosemarie Goodrum, and Amy Kissane planned and organized the event.
Social sustainability, a term intriguing but unknown to many, was one focus of the symposium. The National Trust for Historic Preservation awarded ACHF a grant for the symposium, in part because of the inclusion of the social sustainability focus, a rising star in preservation. The term “social sustainability” refers to taking into account what pressing social needs a community might face and incorporating them into a building project. In Athens this could mean looking at education-related gaps or social-service needs and trying to address those needs when deciding what organizations or companies occupy a space.
Using this historic mill property as a backdrop and inspiration, the foundation’s goal was to stress the viability of this type of project in Athens, illustrate the potential impact of such a project, and demonstrate a model of socially responsible development that combines community needs, economic development, sustainable building practices, and historic preservation.
The daylong event took place at Chase Street Elementary School, just blocks from the property on Oneta and Bryan streets, and began with a bus trip and tour of the property. This was the first time many symposium participants had been on the site, and they were at once impressed by its size and raw beauty, but dismayed by what they perceived as impossible obstacles, especially given the damage to the buildings. Returning to Chase Street Elementary, the 140 participants settled in for four illuminating presentations.