May 19, 2008
Score one for preservation

There's been so much bad news for preservationists lately that it's nice to hear about a win every now and then. Like this story, about reusing a historic building instead of tearing it down.

"What the heck is that?"

That was Scott Tycer's first reaction to the Oriental Textile Mill that has loomed in the Heights since 1894.

He was startled in a good way: Struck by its size and its smokestack and clock tower.

He first laid eyes on it in October when he was searching for a bigger space for Kraftsmen Baking, his wholesaler of artisan bread.

Immediately, he felt the then-gutted space would make a great new home for Kraftsmen, and he inked a deal.

For a business moving into a historic building in need of renovation, there are pros and cons.

The downside: Getting a 114-year-old building into shape can be costly.

The upside: Creating civic good will and an enhanced reputation for your company adds to the daily pleasure of working at a place with distinctive architecture.

Besides, given the spiraling costs of construction materials, renovating a historic structure may cost less than building something new, builders note.

In some cases, when the building is on the National Register of Historic Places or considered a local landmark, there are tax breaks to be had.

In Tycer's case he is spending "a good amount of money" to bring the building up to code, he said.

But $250,000 is worth it, he said.

"The building fits in with our mission statement: sustainable local artisanship," Tycer said. "I'd rather take something with a psychological imprint on the community and recycle it."

I applaud the sentiment, and I hope others emulate it. The point about the rising cost of construction materials may help push a few in that direction. Whatever the motivation, the end result is what matters. Nicely done, Mr. Tycer.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 19, 2008 to Elsewhere in Houston