Preserve and Protect

“Historic preservation can be electrifying!” says Demion Clinco, president of the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation Board. “It adds rich shades and tones to our streets. It’s dynamic and alive.”
Preservation also is “the great recycling program. The greenest house is the one that is already built. The energy to build it has already been expended. Instead of tearing down an old building, people need to ask, ‘How do I preserve and re-use this building?’
“A sense of place has always been important to me,” relates Clinco, who grew up in the Fort Lowell Historic District in Tucson. He attended St. Gregory College Preparatory School (where he now serves as a trustee), and graduated from Occidental College in Los Angeles, with a bachelor’s degree in art history. He completed postgraduate work in design at Istituto Marangoni in Milan, Italy.
After living in Italy, Clinco was planning on heading back to Los Angeles. During a stopover in Tucson, he was offered a job with the DeGrazia Foundation reorganizing collections and preparing their application for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). He also found his passion: historic preservation. “I love Tucson, but I was horrified to discover that historic buildings were being demolished at an alarming rate. The destruction of each one diminishes the beauty and individuality of our city,” Clinco observes. “Every time you demolish a unique place, you are pulling a thread out of the historic fabric, and eventually you are left with a threadbare rag.”
In 2008, Clinco formed Frontier Consulting Group LLC., and as president and CEO he works on historic preservation projects for homes, buildings and entire neighborhoods. That year he also was asked to help re-organize and re-launch the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation (THPF). Although he and his fellow board members appreciate the aesthetics of buildings with a past, “we also believe historic preservation is a critical component in Tucson’s economic future,” says Clinco. “Statistics and case studies show that it is a catalyst for economic development, tourism and quality of life.” More than any particular building being restored, he says he would like to see a preservation ethic permeate the city’s value system.
“The conservation of our cultural resources is so important,” Clinco stresses. “The square-foot area of Tucson’s historic core is only a few percent of the city’s entire footprint. We either celebrate our architectural heritage and promote it to attract individuals and new businesses, or we can merely hope for the best as our city —bungalow by bungalow — is cleared in the name of progress, and we become ‘Anywhere, America.’ You cannot rebuild a 1920s adobe bungalow,” he notes. “Unless we collectively preserve these buildings, we will end up a homogenized suburbia.
“As president of THPF, I work to build partnerships throughout the city, and find projects and programs that are relevant and accessible,” he explains. “THPF tries to take on projects that will have a larger impact.” THPF projects have included Valley of the Moon NRHP, Mountain View Officers Club NRHP, DeAnza/Cactus Drive-In, Neon Signs Restoration Project, City of Tucson Historic Landmark Sign Ordinance, Joesler Book Project, Mine with the Iron Door 1924 film exhibition, and walking tours. “In the coming years, I would like to see the old highway corridor (Historic US 80 and 89 — Miracle Mile and South 6th Avenue) return as a vibrant commercial corridor.
Clinco was appointed to the Tucson-Pima County Historical Commission, and is a member of the board of directors of the Center for Desert Archeology. He also is the Arizona State Advisor to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Public service is nothing new to this dynamic young man. “My mother instilled a civic responsibility in me when I was very young,” he recalls, In fact, Clinco began his life in public service as a youth representative on the board of directors of the Children’s Museum Tucson.
Demion’s parents, Paul and Judy Clinco, and his sister Morrighan all live in Tucson. When not working, he enjoys spending time with family, friends, hiking, going to movies and cooking.
Despite his young age (31), Clinco already has collected a number of awards, including the City of Tucson Historic Preservation Award in 2012, and the 2009 “Up and Comers” award from Inside Tucson Business. In 2011, he was named one of the “40 Under 40” by the Arizona Daily Star.
“Preservation is relevant to young people,” says Clinco. “Historic preservation is not only about nostalgia, it is about our city’s competitive advantage, economic possibility and vibrancy.”
He attributes his success to surrounding himself with amazing people and following through with what he says he will do. “I have learned to communicate my passion for my projects, but I also include logic, research and obscure local history,” he relates. “Working in preservation you have to be a diplomat and an advocate.”
If you are interested in seeing some of Tucson’s historic sites, Clinco highly recommends Mission San Xavier del Bac, calling it “one of the diamonds in Tucson’s crown.” There also are a number of “cool historic treasures throughout town, including the DeGrazia Gallery, Barrio Viejo (known for its historic adobe homes), and historic neighborhoods such as El Presidio and West University.”        — Wendy Sweet

To learn more about THPF visit