This edition features Amanda Crawley, a 2008 graduate from Columbia GSAPP with an emphasis in preservation planning. She has been the Executive Director of Historic Kansas City since 2011 and is the proud owner of a 1919 cottage in the South Plaza neighborhood of midtown Kansas City.

What trends/challenges are non-profits dealing with?

I’d say that most of the trends and challenges fall in to two main categories: building and retaining membership and breaking down misconceptions, both of who we are as a group and what preservation is at-large. To attract members, first and foremost we must to be able to demonstrate that we are successful in our mission to save historic buildings. For HKC, this means focusing on advocacy and policy while also ramping up our outreach and exposure strategies, particularly through online communication and social media. 

We are also developing and promoting innovative member benefits that appeal to a wide audience. For example, we’ve recently started a new members-only tour series called Urban Explorers in which we take groups into buildings and places not open to the public. We’ve toured active construction sites, underground tunnels and warehouses, and luxury condominiums. As long as it’s interesting and exclusive, they will come!

In terms of breaking down misconceptions, we’ve been working hard to align our efforts with current issues and interests, particularly sustainability, right-sizing, tourism and economic development. We’ve started a very successful and active Young Preservationists group, have entered into a formal affiliation with popular interest group called
 KCModern, and will continue to explore innovative partnerships. In order to be successful in this day and age we need to align ourselves with interests and movements outside of preservation.

What are some recent successes and saves for Historic Kansas City?

Historic Kansas City partnered with a local neighborhood association to oppose the proposed demolition of four apartment buildings in the Old Hyde Park Historic District. The owner, a real estate development company based in New Jersey, was claiming economic hardship. For months, Historic Kansas City engaged in 
community and stakeholder meetings, and our involvement in the case culminated in a public presentation to the Historic Preservation Commission. The commission voted unanimously to deny the certificate of appropriateness based on economic hardship. The buildings are now in a three-year waiting period before a demolition permit could be issued. We will continue to engage with stakeholders and developers to ensure a positive long-term outcome for the buildings.

Also, Historic Kansas City worked with stakeholders and interested parties to raise awareness for an endangered historic farmhouse called 3 Gables. The Gothic Revival house is possibly the oldest in Kansas City, the first two rooms being constructed in 1824. Historic Kansas City helped facilitate an application for listing on the
 Kansas City Register of Historic Places and included the house on our Most Endangered List. After an article published in a local newspaper, a sensitive buyer stepped in to save the building and they are currently working on rehabilitation.

What is the most thought provoking or challenging project you are
working on right now?

A proposal has recently surfaced to build a Neutra case study house in a midtown Kansas City historic district. Most of the houses in the neighborhood were built in the early 1900s and represent a variety of styles, but are primarily large Craftsman and Classical Revival homes on expansive lots. One of the homes in the neighborhood is one of two Frank Lloyd Wright houses in Kansas City. The owner of that house has proposed splitting the lot and selling a portion to the individual who wants to build the Neutra house. To even further add to a set of complicated circumstances, the other neighboring house is the former home of artist Thomas Hart Benton; currently a house museum and State Historic Site. Needless to say this is an interesting set of circumstances requiring careful research and evaluation.

What is the most important thing that you learned at GSAPP?

What I learned in terms of preservation law, zoning and land use has been most beneficial in my current position. While knowing the basics of architectural history and evaluating historic significance is an essential framework, most of our advocacy entails public policy work and requires comprehensive strategies involving multiple disciplines.

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