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How a beer brand is getting into historic preservation

Heineken’s Cities Project wants to help restore 10 sites in cities across the U.S.

The Triforium in Los Angeles, one of the restoration projects being supported by the Heineken Cities project
Paul Narvaez: Flickr/Creative Commons

In the constant competition for consumer attention, it sometimes seems like there’s no surface in the city immune from advertising. So, in a bid to get attention, one beer brand has decided to help conserve, instead of commercialize, the urban landscape.

This summer, Heineken’s Cities Project initiative is focusing on 10 different monuments and sites in U.S. cities, using IndieGoGo as a crowdfunding platform to raise awareness and funds for restoration. To get added attention for the brand, as well as historic preservation, the campaign is leveraging concert tickets as perks to drive engagement; pairs of tickets for this summer’s Bruno Mars tour have been donated to raise money for the campaign.

Heineken’s Cities Project has been in operation since 2015, and has supported projects in New York City (the +POOL, a floating, water-purifying pool), Los Angeles (Beautify Hollywood), San Francisco (the Bay Lights installation) and Miami, where it provided $100,000 to support renovation of the city’s waterfront Marine Stadium.

According to Jason Clement, the community outreach director and Heineken Cities project manager for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Heineken decided to broaden its campaign this year, beyond its larger $100,000 to +POOL, to hit more cities (and presumably reach more beer drinkers).

The program differs from some other urban design crowdfunding projects by focusing on smaller, achievable projects, and partnering with local nonprofits to coordinate fundraising and oversee implementation. Some past city crowdfunding projects have been criticized for being too speculative, attempting to make big changes to the landscape without properly factoring in politics, planning, and permits. The goal with the Cities Project is to offer a “direct line to people making a difference,” says Clement, and raise $15,000 for each project. Heineken’s U.S. communications director, Bjorn Trowery, says it’s about “supporting these citizen-led ideas while generating wider grassroots support.”

The projects being supported include: restoring the Waikiki Natatorium in Waikiki, Hawaii, an ocean-water swimming pool built as a war memorial; restoring an old Reading Railroad dining car on Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and turning it into a welcome center for the forthcoming Rail Park rail-to-trails program; commissioning a photographer to document the residents of Little Havana in Miami; funding a public installation at the Astrodome in Houston; helping fund the restoration of Philip Johnson’s iconic 1964 New York State Pavilion in New York City; jumpstarting the restoration of the giant centurion statues found at Washington, D.C.’s Union Station; transforming the Sweet Auburn Water Tower in Atlanta into a public art project; repairing the famous purple glass sidewalk tile in Seattle’s Pioneer Square; fixing the Triforium Sculpture in Los Angeles so this quirky piece of public art once again makes music; and funding Voiceover, a public audio installation in Chicago that will broadcast residents’ personal stories on the elevated 606 Park.

Campaigns, which are at various stages of reaching their $15,000 goals, end on June 30.

Heineken won’t have any marketing or naming rights at the included sites, or any plaques. In addition to the concert-focused marketing, Heineken will also promote the project at point-of-sale sites in the 10 selected markets.