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Combining Energy Efficiency and Historic Preservation

Ring the bell!  Within one day, Retrofit Baltimore signed up 4 homeowners for comprehensive energy audits.  This is a record number in one day.  How did we do it?

These homeowners, all residents of the Charles Village community, attended an “Energy Meeting” at the Charles Village Benefits District Office the night before.  Co-hosted by Retrofit Baltimore and the local non-profit Baltimore Heritage, this meeting represented a product of a healthy and mutually beneficial partnership.

The genesis of the partnership took root at a Baltimore Heritage “Young Preservationist” event I attended, just for fun, a few months earlier.  As (1) a true “young preservationist” with a longtime fascination with the historic urban landscape and an academic background in urban studies and historic preservation and (2) an AmeriCorps member dedicating a year toward promoting sustainability through home weatherization, I recognized a natural convergence of purpose.  Meanwhile, as I excitedly rambled on about Retrofit Baltimore and Eli Pousson (Field Officer with Baltimore Heritage) probed me with more questions, it became apparent to him that our outreach methods and challenges converged as well.

The next day, we set up a meeting for later that week, and by the end of the meeting we had a plan: to hold a joint summer series of educational workshops and a joint commitment to offering our unique resources toward the goal of boosting community interest and attendance.

The enthusiasm and attendance levels at the Charles Village “Weatherization and Historic Tax Credit Workshop” reflected the value of our joint commitment.  Retrofit Baltimore’s main resource is our “people power”—the sheer man hours and commitment of our team of AmeriCorps organizing fellows to “hit the streets” at the very localized level—the neighborhood of Charles Village.  In 2 short weeks, we knocked on about 700 doors and spent our Saturday mornings handing out flyers at the neighborhood farmer’s market.  We also connected with neighborhood leaders—who offered to advertise our event through their online networks, including the neighborhood email list, facebook, and MeetUp.  Meanwhile, Baltimore Heritage, as a longstanding nonprofit with a citywide base of supporters and partnerships, but only one Field Officer on staff, offered a slightly different set of assets;  Eli Pousson capitalized on Baltimore Heritage’s existing relationships with groups across the city, to advertise our event through citywide networks, including its own 200 member listserv.  Through the executive director’s connections, Eli also secured an ideal venue for the event—a great space with a natural connection with neighborhood residents.

The four homeowners who signed up for energy assessments all expressed interest in taking advantage of both the energy efficiency rebates and the historic tax credit programs.  I look forward to working with Eli in the next few weeks, as we work out the details to help these homeowners benefit the most from their energy improvement projects, and as we discuss our plans for next month’s Energy Meeting!

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