The Mission of Preservation Chelsea

It is our mission to preserve Chelsea as a village rich with history and charm, reflected by historic buildings, surrounding farmlands, and as found in our beautiful and vibrant village center. We aim to work through education, offering to ourselves and the community the history of Chelsea as well as the issues shaping our future. We intend actively to preserve historic landmarks and to have a voice in all issues that affect any possible de-centralization of our village. It is our intention to pursue this mission with full involvement and input from merchants and citizens of Chelsea and to act in ways that make sense for the preservation of Chelsea's charm and historic integrity while supporting a vibrant and successful downtown.

Federal Screw Works

Federal Screw Works
This property has been under threat of total demolition since 2008--there are historically signficant and architecturally interesting sections that should be preserved!

Jackson Street Panorama

Jackson Street Panorama
The DDA voted at the meeting on 9.20.12 to demolish the Daniels Addition Car Showroom despite the letter from the State Historic Preservation Office. (please read below)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Public Comment City Council 9.28.10

City Council Meeting – September 28, 2010
Michelle McClellan, 232 Jefferson Street, Chelsea

Thank you for the opportunity to speak tonight. My name is Michelle McClellan, and I am a Chelsea resident, as well as a history professor at the University of Michigan and the current president of the group Preservation Chelsea. I also have the privilege of serving on the Chelsea First Advisory Committee, where I represent the domains of history and historic preservation.

Historic architecture is a key ingredient in making Chelsea a charming place to live. It connects us to the history of Chelsea, to the people who have come before, and it anchors us to this place, whether we are long-time residents or relative newcomers. It is also a very important economic resource. For these reasons, I am here to advocate for the preservation of the buildings known as the Longworth Complex.

Some of you attended the public presentation by Ed McMahon, a nationally known expert on sustaining livable and prosperous communities. I’d like to thank Bob Pierce, the Chamber of Commerce, and others who brought such a dynamic and engaging speaker to our community.

According to McMahon, community differentiation is an important concept in economic development. What makes your town special?

In Chelsea we are fortunate to have many resources which enrich our lives as residents and which have huge potential to draw tourists. In particular, we have a very powerful 1-2 punch of natural and historic assets, with a charming downtown that also functions as a gateway to the Waterloo State Recreation Area. We need to be stewards of both sorts of resources to ensure our quality of life and to leverage their economic potential.

The buildings of the Longworth Complex, unique in appearance, exemplify McMahon’s points about the importance of keeping what is special about your town. The historical importance and structural integrity of the entire complex have been found to be significantly greater than initially realized – certainly greater than is apparent with a casual glance at their current condition.

In fact, these buildings have received national recognition for their historic significance. That recognition, in turn, can open the door to financial tools, including tax credits and grants which, along with in-kind contributions and venture capital, can make the rehabilitation of these buildings economically viable. The Chelsea Connection Team has proposed structuring a partnership or purchase agreement with the DDA that would allow us to take full advantage of these financial tools to rehabilitate the buildings.

Rehabilitation, rather than demolition, will lead to long-term economic benefits for our community.

First, the process of rehabilitation itself functions as an economic engine. As compared to demolition or new construction, rehabilitation is more labor-intensive. That is a good thing, particularly in a recession. Rehabilitation creates jobs. With a higher proportion of the money spent on labor, the dollars circulate longer in the community. Dollars spent on materials circulate once. Dollars spent on labor can circulate locally up to six times, according to economic development expert Donovan Rypkema.

Second, once the rehabilitation is complete, this unique venue will add to Chelsea’s brand identity. One of the main goals of the Chelsea First Marketing Initiative is to promote Chelsea as a destination, and to my mind, rehabilitating the Longworth Complex aligns perfectly with that goal. It also follows the advice of Ed McMahon to use what you have, enhance your particular assets, and protect community character.

We know that tourism is a critical sector for the state of Michigan, and also for the Chelsea area. Heritage or cultural tourists – those who visit a place because of its historic attractions and ambience – stay longer and spend more.

As you know, this issue has galvanized a lot of citizen involvement. I deeply regret that this situation has given rise to animosity, since that was never our intent. The necessary constraints of a formal RFP process may well have impeded certain kinds of dialogue. I still believe that working together can turn these buildings into a wonderful asset for our community.

Thank you.

Information on Ed McMahon:

The Economics of Historic Preservation, Donovan Rypkema

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