Thursday, June 12, 2008

Preservation and Why it Makes Good Economic Sense

In the town where I live there's a great deal of discussion these days about a large downtown building and what to do with it. It's the large building in the background of this photo Greg took in May. An absentee owner has let it deteriorate to some degree, but it could still be preserved. A suggestion has been made to move our city hall to it because we also need to build a new city hall.

This makes good sense to me. It keeps a historic building extant. It solves a problem for city hall. It is good for the environment to use a building that's already here instead of building a new one and also prevents sending a ton of stuff to the landfill if it has to be demolished. And, to top it off, it preserves something that is a significant part of our downtown landscape.

Okay, so, there's the backstory.

The trick is getting other people to realize the benefits of preservation. I ran across this information from a speech the other day and just loved how he sums up the whole situation. This is from a seminar by Donovan D. Rypkema on the Economics of Preservation, given at the University of Miami in 2006.

"I cannot identify a single example of a sustained success story in downtown revitalization where historic preservation wasn't a key component of that strategy. Not a one. Conversely the examples of very expensive failures in downtown revitalization - Detroit leaps immediately to mind - have nearly all had the destruction of historic buildings as a major element. That doesn't mean, I suppose, that its not theoretically possible to have downtown revitalization and no historic preservation, but I haven't seen it, I haven't read of it, I haven't heard of it. Now the relative importance of preservation as part of the downtown revitalization effort will vary some, depending on the local resources, the age of the city, the strength of the local preservation advocacy groups, and the enlightenment of the leadership. But successful revitalization and no historic preservation? It ain't happening."
to read more of his presentation

My frustration with such things is that it's so obvious and yet people ignore it.

Facts play such a small part in changing anyone's mind about any topic. I know this, and yet it still surprises me.
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Anonymous said...

I've heard Mr. Rypkema speak twice - once here in Hutchinson - and he's always got very sound, conservative, economic reasons to back his ideas. Thanks for the quote.

Patsy Terrell said...

I'm so sorry I didn't get to see him when he was here. Don't know how I missed that... maybe I was out of town... sounds like the sort of thing I would have loved.