Preservation equals progress in Beaufort

info@islandpacket.comMarch 12, 2013 

The John A. Cuthbert House, circa 1810, on Bay Street in Beaufort was at one time almost destroyed, but has been restored by several owners as is now the Cuthbert House Inn bed-and-breakfast.

PHOTO BY DAVID LAUDERDALE — -Staff photo Buy Photo

Historic preservation in Beaufort gets an experienced leader with the recent appointment of Maxine Lutz as executive director of the private, nonprofit Historic Beaufort Foundation.

But at the same time, the change can bring about a new beginning, if the public and city leaders approach this important facet of community life with an open mind.

It requires an open mind to see that preservation is progress. Saving the city's historic buildings, neighborhoods and feel must be seen in City Hall as progress.

Too often, preservation is seen as an impediment to economic development, when in fact the tangible and colorful history of Beaufort is its greatest economic pillar.

Historic buildings are to Beaufort what the beach is to Hilton Head Island. Leaders of both communities need to focus on those assets above all others.

The Historic Beaufort Foundation has represented the local preservation ethic since 1965. Its broad mission is to support the preservation, protection and presentation of sites and artifacts of historic, architectural and cultural interest throughout Beaufort County. To do that, it deals with lots of minutia, which sometimes can aggravate people and give it a reputation of being an obstacle to progress.

Lutz steps into the director's chair promising to foster a spirit of cooperation when it comes to development.

She has worked with the foundation for 15 years under four directors and twice has served as interim director. She also leads the Old Commons Neighborhood Association. That makes her keenly aware of the people, places, laws, regulations, issues and challenges of development in historic downtown Beaufort.

It also makes her aware that the foundation sometimes has been labeled as "the party of no." But she maintains that, in truth, the foundation is not anti-development, and it is not opposed to the "infill" development throughout the city that is desperately needed for its tax base and vitality.

"I want to see that we are portrayed as a go-to source for helping to create the best and most appropriate projects," Lutz said. That help can best come early in the process, prior to projects going before a city review board.

Experienced, principled voices -- and open minds -- are needed on all sides as Beaufort attempts to totally redo its zoning and puts new emphasis on redevelopment. Leaders should not see historic preservation as a "we versus they" problem, but an "all for one" opportunity.

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