Two Oakland treasures — the Fox Theater and the Cleveland Cascade — are among 25 Bay Area sites vying for a total of $1 million in preservation grants offered in a partnership between the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express.

[Editor’s note: The author is Chair of Friends of the Cleveland Cascade.]

Certainly the most innovative aspect of the program is the funder’s invitation to the community to vote for their favorite project(s). The public’s participation in the grant selection process “will ensure that this remains a community-centered initiative,” according to a statement by the partnership released yesterday.

The Cleveland Cascade in its prime, and in the future. Click to enlarge

You can vote for your favorite project at the Partnership In Preservation website — up to once each day through October 31st.

To vote you must register; but the site explains “no strings attached; nothing to sign.” — no information other than an email address is collected. The site promises that your personal information will not be given or sold.

Voting will also be available using freestanding computer kiosks located at selected Peet’s Coffee & Tea outlets. The Peet’s outlets on Lakeshore Avenue and Piedmont were not on the original list of kiosk-equipped locations, though it is possible that those locations will be added.

At the Partnership In Preservation website you can locate all 25 candidate projects on a map of the Bay Area and then click on each one for more information. The information for each project includes a brief description, photos, stories, and information about the site’s significance and current use and what makes each one special.

The Fox Theater. Click to enlarge

The National Trust started with a “huge number” of candidates before arriving at the slate of 25 preservation projects competing for funding, according to David Brown, its executive vice president. Brown said the slate was chosen to reflect the diversity and best represent and tell the story of the Bay Area.

This is not a winner-takes-all process. Many — anywhere from roughly five to a dozen — of the candidate projects are likely to receive funding, partnership representatives said at a press conference yesterday at the Le Meridien Hotel in San Francisco. The web competition will be one of many factors considered by the National Trust and a special advisory committee making the final funding decisions.

The extent of community support for a project, as shown by the project’s votes in the web contest, can influence whether that project is funded as well as how much funding it receives. The winner of the web competition is guaranteed funding, however, independently of other criteria.

The sites awarded grant funding will be announced in November.