When it's gone, it's gone... FOREVER

A news article from North Platte's KNOP-TV caught my eye recently.

Village officials in the small community in Brule are patting themselves on the back for the planned demolition of an historic building in their downtown. They are even touting as a success a previous demolition that still remains a vacant lot in their downtown area. In light of recent developments in Sutherland, this strikes very close to home.

This is a beautiful building on Sutherland's main street as it stood during our recent (unsuccessful) campaign to implement a local option sales tax to be used to help rehab buildings such as this.
This is how it looked as I left town for a business trip one morning in November, 2012
And this is how the site looks today. Like a gaping lost tooth in a community smile.

Contrast that with this wonderful story of rehabilitation

Broken Bow Tiffany Theater

Continued neglect of our built heritage will result in more and more buildings that decay to the point where demolition is necessary, but it doesn't have to be that way. In the Forging Nebraska's Future 100 NExt Generation Ideas, options are proposed to help communities facing these challenges.

Some specific suggestions include: 
  •  29. Restrict property tax increases for those who are willing to rehab old buildings. 
  • 41. Skills training (trade school) should include background on historic buildings and building rehabs. Young people could easily make a lifetime career if trained in this construction area. 
  • 67. Practice “rural sourcing” by strategically moving existing and start-up companies as well as government functions to rural areas to reduce labor costs and increase employee reliability. This project aims to expand on a successful cross-sourcing model used by an existing software company. Recruit University of Nebraska Alumni back to rural Nebraska in targeted professional service occupations. 
  • 83. Coordinate efforts for communities to ‘Rehab’-itate (vs. new construction like Habitat for Humanity) existing structures, combining historical perspectives, financial incentives, wood and metal reclamation, knowledgeable contractors and a focus on energy efficiency. This could bring new families to small communities, attract new or expanded businesses, provide gathering places, support jobs, and remove eye sores from our communities along the way.
One of the bright spots in rehabilitating the downtowns of Nebraska's towns and villages is the Main Street Program. This program provides vital tools to help communities learn the value and economics of saving their historic downtown buildings, but is in CONSTANT need of additional funding, and even faces shutting down if their funding is not provided for in the upcoming Nebraska budget. The public hearing on LB376, the Main Street funding bill, will be held Tuesday March 5, 2013 in front of the Legislature's Appropriations Committee.

If you would like to see Nebraska communities stop allowing their downtowns to deteriorate beyond repair, and think it is a good idea to give them the tools they need to save their heritage, study the 100 NExt Generation Ideas document and contact the members of the Appropriations Committee before the March 5th hearing and tell them to advance the Main Street funding bill. Thanks for stopping by.

The coffee is always on, especially for political discussions.


  1. Didn't see this mentioned in the Next Generation document so thought I'd add to the conversation:

    Something I've thought about more and more over the years is how artists could help revive small communities and use spaces like the one torn down in Sutherland, for living and/or working.

    Of course, you'd have to be willing to sell yourself to artists as a community, support the arts (both verbally and with your hard-earned dollars) as a community (and that means embracing more than just country music, embracing ideas and aesthetics that you may not be familiar or even always comfortable with) and probably offer some incentives. Artists — as much as they often flock to big cities — are willing to do a lot of things a lot of us Americans aren't. Make sacrifices a lot of us won't.

    They'll be willing to live on less if it means they can have a large studio space like the Sutherland building for a song. They'll be willing to move a small town, even when prospects of selling their work locally are usually next to none. The Art Farm near Marquette, NE, is a good example of all of this (even if it is short term).

    Other small towns are realizing this and beginning to capitalize on it. The Most Unlikely Place in Lewellen (and that family's big dream for Lewellen as an art hub), the Prairie Threads fiber arts shop in Clearwater, etc.

    1. I absolutely, wholeheartedly agree with you! I think this is a missed opportunity many of our small towns overlook because it's not the "norm".

      Small towns often have exactly what artists are looking for - sense of community, low cost of living, large spaces available at a low cost. But a community can't expect the artists to come in and do the work. They have to take the risk, rehab the buildings and put themselves out there. It takes an investment and vision, something that has been lacking in our small towns. Hopefully success stories like The Most Unlikely Place and Prairie Threads will bring the winds of change.

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  3. If I owned the buildings I would agree wholeheartedly, however the towns rarely own the buildings making it difficult for them to make that gesture.

    In our town we have many of the buildings owned by out of town landlords. I am not sure what their intent is, can't see the profit or sense in letting them rot until it's too late to rehab. Finding the funds to offer incentives seems to be a good way to go.

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