Welcome back to another public history project evaluation! This time we will be evaluating the Rehabber Club Project and narrowing in on the preservation efforts and stakeholders involved.
First thing first though…
What exactly is the San Antonio Rehabber Club Project, anyway?
Well, what sticks out from the title? For me, it’s Rehabber…sort of like rehabilitation…and if you click on the project link you’ll find that this enterprise is dedicated to a group of people rebuilding historic buildings! Very fitting for the whole rehabilitation-Rehabber name.
Now, it should be noted that this isn’t just any group of people coming together. This is a continuous project initially launched in 2016 by the City of San Antonio Office of Historic Preservation. But what more should we know about this oh-so official club? Let’s check it out.
Like every good city project, there’s usually some kind of formal summary that expresses their assignment, values, and goal, otherwise known as a mission statement. So what’s their mission, you ask? Well, pulling directly from their website…
“The Rehabber Club mission is to build and support a network of do-it-yourselfers, craftsmen, contractors, historic homeowners, realtors, and everyday citizens to revitalize San Antonio’s historic buildings. We accomplish this through networking, training, certification, and plain ole encouragement.”
Okay, okay, okay, so we know what they do, but who do the Rehabber Club involve?
Basically all the people mentioned in the mission statement. So, do-it-yourselfers, or people who work on a building and revitalize the foundation themselves; realtors, or agents who sell and purchase a building; and everyday citizens, or people who come together in this club to offer their volunteered service.
Alright, we seem to have a sturdy foundation of what this organization is…But who else might be involved? Who else partners with the Rehabber Club? Interestingly enough, a great deal of the Rehabber Club preservation and promotion is owed to the Power of Preservation Foundation, which helps achieve projects throughout the community.
Now that we know who the Rehabbers are, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty evaluation portion. Some areas that were considered to comment on include aesthetics, content, and functionality. However, the main areas that stand interestingly apart are in the promotion, history, and outreach efforts of this project. See, if there’s one thing that city projects either lack or excel at, it’s promotion; and it’s draining work honestly (I’ve been there).
Not only can is it a hassle to promote a business but it can also be discouraging knowing that you’ll pass out information to 250 people and have maybe 4 check backs that people are actually interested. Especially with city projects, the interest level is probably not as high as, let’s say, a new local ice cream joint. Still, the constant push for promotion is crucial to receive support from volunteers, donors, and marketers. This is where I think the Rehabber Club makes a smart move.
Not only does their website have a “Get Involved” promotion, but it’s also listed as one of their five tabs at the top. Allowing this easy access, without being annoyingly persistent, this website make a strategic promotion to attract newcomers. After all, if a visitor clicks on the easily accessible “Get Involved” tab then that individual will next have the opportunity to “Join the Club” or become a “Volunteer”. Refer to Ex. 1 and Ex. 2 from the Rehabber Club’s page for a visual.
The “You can make a difference” call-to-action marketing method helps a potential client feel as if their contribution will make a significant impact in other people’s lives, or specifically, their city’s historical rehabilitation project efforts. These are the exact details that are important to note when evaluating the promotional aspects of public history projects.
On a larger scale, there is another kind of marketing that focuses the attention to historic intercity neighborhoods. Take for example the revitalization of inner-city St. Louis. In the book Beyond Preservation: Using Public History to Revitalize Inner Cities, Andrew Hurley states that,
“There is nothing inherently wrong about using history as a marketing tool. In an age of globalization and increasingly homogenized experience, heritage tourism satisfies a real hunger for the distinctive and the autochthonous [indigenous inhabitant], that which springs from local sources. For overlooked inner-city neighborhoods like Old North St. Louis, is a perfectly logical and reasonable way to command greater attention and generate more revenue for local business” (Hurley, 71).
Furthermore, the history of inner-cities, like that of St. Louis and San Antonio, have something great to be shared, preserved, and marketed. If these spaces need revitalization, then what better way to do that than by emphasizing the history that makes each place unique and interesting?
With the Rehabber Club in place, the City of San Antonio Office of Historic Preservation has a beneficial opportunity to help out local businesses that surround the inner-city of SA by focusing on the historic buildings from 10, 50, or even 100 years ago. With history as the focus, tourists and even the general public are then attracted to a building’s makeover and will most likely visit local businesses in the area.
This utilization of history is perfect for marketing.
In another sense, take into consideration how the Pearl Brewery, here in San Antonio, has made inner-city revitalization more visible within the city. Aside from the negativity of gentrification that this project has also caused, there is no denying that the historic Pearl Brewery is now bringing heightened business to the surrounding area.
Nevertheless, coming back to the second point of this evaluation, the Rehabber Club makes a clever move by inviting people to get involved when they visit their website and through this method of historical marketing. In this way people also have a chance to become part of the revamped inner-city life and businesses.
If there’s one final category to mention, it’s that this project makes a striking effort to outreach. This is a good thing! Staying connected is the key to any project, especially city wide projects. Not only does outreach help people stay in touch with the organization, but it also helps the organization stay in touch with the community. How else did the Rehabbers know that there were historic buildings out in San Antonio that needed rehabilitation and preservation? Staying connected to the community is the epitome of public history communication, for without this, these buildings would have wasted away, or worse, these community histories would have wasted away.
Next, let’s taking a look and evaluating Ex. 3 above and notice that the Rehabber Club offers a digital way to “Become a Partner”. In understanding its importance, if an individual wants to get involved but may not way to call, then that person might find it easier to send a quick “Hey, I’m interested!” message verses an audible phone call that probably won’t have much of an effect versus a visual email.
Finally, evaluating Ex. 4, the Rehabber Club makes an astute move here to include address, phone number, and social media accounts. I think this is great because I haven’t seen too many public history projects that include variety of social media account. Yet, it’s quite important in this day in age if you’re especially wanting to reach out to youth. Plus, with more methods of outreach to connect people to organizations, the more effective this project will be in the end to accrue publicity and popularity.
Tally the Score
All in all, I would say that this project is on point, as my generation says. Aside from the few typos I saw, the aesthetics look great and the content is formatted to a clean cut. Most importantly, this project is on point in it’s promotion, historical marketing, and outreach. Again, these are important factors that not only help with the overall attraction of this organization, but that also help individuals feel like their support can make a positive impact, preserve the stories rooted in project walls, and further connect people beyond volunteer shifts.
At it’s whole, this is one public history project that is definitely hot. Now where do I sign up!? Oh wait, I can’t use that cheesy line because I just told you where…