Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Trey Mendez Fears Brownsville's Historical Buildings Not Being Adequately Preserved

From the editor:  Attorney Trey Mendez, Chairman of the City of Brownsville Heritage Council, shared the following article with us after two initial submissions to the Brownsville Herald were not run, the original sent to the local paper three weeks ago, a second ten days ago.  We are happy to publish his "Letter to the Editor."  



Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a
conference in Washington, D.C. sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a nonprofit group that works to save America's historic places for the next generation. Not only did it refresh my interest in Brownsville's valuable architectural history, but it also served as a reminder that we aren't doing enough to preserve our historic places. 
When I say "we", I am collectively referring to property owners, contractors, realtors and the City. 

Trey Mendez
It is often said that Brownsville is the second most historic city in Texas, right behind San Antonio, but I would venture to say that our place on that list is in jeopardy. Many of our historic buildings and homes are being torn down, are undergoing shoddy or illegal "remodeling"efforts, or are simply suffering from a lack of maintenance, commonly referred to as "demolition by neglect." 

While some of that is driven by economics, awareness also plays a big part. Now is the time to reverse course and begin a concerted effort to save our past. Currently, all exterior remodeling, repairs, and new construction of properties located within the historic district require a permit. Despite this, many contractors and property owners press forward without one, performing inappropriate or irreversible alterations, thereby causing more harm than good. 

Soon, a new ordinance will go into effect that will strengthen oversight for alterations and new construction in our historical district and severely discourage demolitions. This is not meant to prevent individuals from making repairs to their properties, but rather, to encourage them to take proper measures to ensure that the repair or remodel has a sustainable design component and is performed with the utmost respect for the historical characteristics of the property. 

Generally, historic structures are valuable not only from a cultural perspective, but have also proven to be strong drivers for economic development. Various studies have shown that districts with rehabilitated older structures thrive, providing an avenue for art and culture, new jobs, and ultimately create heritage tourism, something that has brought millions of dollars in revenues to other cities throughout the nation, such as San Antonio and New Orleans. We are missing out. 

Through innovative and careful reuse, design and retrofitting of our downtown buildings, homes and vacant structures, Brownsville can actually fulfill it's goal of a downtown revitalization. The goal shouldn't just be a healthy and vibrant downtown, but a healthy and vibrant Brownsville that can boast a sense of pride in its history and architecture. 

A recent nonprofit start up, the Brownsville Preservation Society, has tasked itself with taking the leading on transforming west Brownsville and other historical areas, for the purposes of creating awareness and restoring a sense of pride in one's home and neighborhood. 

Our past is our future. We must all support revitalization efforts and do our part to make Brownsville a destination, rather than a stop on an otherwise lackluster trip down memory lane. 


Trey Mendez
Chairman, City of Brownsville Heritage Council

9 comments:

  1. The City doesn't value their own historical buildings. Fire Station 1 and 2 are starting to look like crap. Maybe now that they got rid of the idiot fire chief, something might actually get done. I seriously doubt it, but one can only hope.

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  2. I applaud the Brownsville Herald for not publishing anything Trey Mendez promotes.

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    1. Whoever you are "anonymous", and with good reason you show cowardice by hiding your name, you have entirely missed the point of what is good for Brownsville versus what your private feelings are.Trey is DEAD RIGHT on this issue. It strengthens our local heritage AND brings money into all of our pockets. If you are against that, then you have said enough.

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  3. What about those people downtown who cant afford all the expensive upgrades you guys ask for. It's easy to implement new ordinances and ask for more expensive remodeling guidelines when it does not have to come out of your pocket!

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  4. Bravo, Trey. There is tremendous value in downtown Brownsville that could be of great benefit to the entire city. Property owners who whine and complain about not being able to afford repairs and maintenance of their property should talk with the city and the local preservation board about assistance programs that can help them improve their property -- although it should be remembered that putting money into a property is an investment that gets repaid when the property gets sold.

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    1. Heads up!! I hope that people listen & take this to heart. If not one day you will wake to a city of car washes, parking lots, & concrete everywhere!! Brownsville deserves more than that!!! Thanks to Trey Mendez for bringing it to our attention!!

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    2. Thank you Dottie. I sincerely appreciate your concern for our city and its wonderful history. You are exactly on point. Typically, a demolition results in parking lots, or empty lots with no plans for infill. We need to guard what we have remaining.

      Trey Mendez

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  5. Please list departments who would financially assist in remodeling a building in the manner historical society dictates. I know some folks who will need assistance on remodeling. Owners of older homes bought prior to this preservation idea should not be punished for something a group decided after purchase. People would have thought twice of buying if they knew someone was going to govern the way their own personal dwelling, which was paid for with their own hard earned money, has to look.

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