By encouraging owners of historic properties to involve preservationists - primarily architects with a passion for preservation - in major decisions, our community will benefit.

Two recent cases have simply called attention to a need for a more unified preservation and downtown redevelopment effort.

We're not against anybody.

Without historic preservation, there would be no Garden District in New Orleans or Belhaven in Jackson.

Historic preservation is a mindset, a philosophy. Some communities have it, some don't. It's a choice.

Philadelphia is trying, and the historic preservation efforts should be encouraged.

Likewise, downtown redevelopment is a mindset, a philosophy and the two - preservation and redevelopment - are intrinsically tied. Oxford, Canton, Starkville and Columbus all have been successful in their efforts.

The designation of an historic residential district in Philadelphia in the 1980s and eventually the formation of the Philadelphia Historic Preservation Commission were visionary actions.

Many old homes and church buildings have already been leveled in the name of progress.

Not every building is salvageable or should be saved. Sometimes, the wrecking ball is the best option.

But we have to give the Philadelphia Historic Preservation Commission credit for trying to do the right thing honorably.

The seven-member commission, appointed by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen, has been horribly misunderstood from the outset, and we worry whether the commission truly has the political backing required because so many folks tend to cut and run as soon as the slightest controversy arises.

Is Philadelphia a town that genuinely values historic preservation?

That is a legitimate question.

Time was the Philadelphia Main Street Association was highly involved in historic preservation. Outside architects and professionals were made available to local business owners with much success.

The Citizens Bank Operations Center in the old Fred's building and the county Justice Court building are all good examples.

Then Jordan and White Attorneys salvaged a southwest corner of the square; the Ellis facade was restored.

These are all good things. Unfortunately, that early momentum has died.

The primary role of the Philadelphia Historic Preservation Commission is to determine whether a structure is historic or not.

The commission can and has offered suggestions on alternative designs, but community leaders with a truly aggressive spirit of historic preservation and downtown redevelopment would enthusiastically encourage Main Street and others to unite, paint a vision and lay out a plan.

A comprehensive downtown plan could help determine if razing the Coke building to make way for a public parking lot is the best use.

Could The First Baptist Church construct a day care on the other side of their block and save an historic house?

By raising these questions, we simply hope to spur creative thought and encourage the PHPC and historic preservation.