The Economic Case for Preservation

Shelburne, Nova Scotia

Municipalities that support historic preservation initiatives have bought into a strategy that has been proven the world over to lead to prosperity.

Protection of and support for historic buildings creates a keystone of economic infrastructure and a corner stone of community identity.  There is a richness and authenticity inherent in the craftsmanship of historic wooden, brick, and stone structures, to say nothing of their intriguing individuality.

The all-too-common alternative—and sometimes trendy pressure for turnkey sameness—can be tempting to uninformed property owners and “progressive” municipal leaders. This sameness of replacement architecture creates a dull, uninspired streetscape and a loss of sense of place—not an environment conducive to attracting new merchants and not a place with encouraging prospects for young people.  As Nick Rockel of the Globe and Mail recently pointed out, converting older buildings for new enterprise can improve quality of place and attract new talent.

Historic neighborhoods in Nova Scotia are astonishing in the degree to which they are undervalued and unrecognized as community assets.  This reality is both a huge threat and an enormous opportunity.  A threat, because undervalued properties are often seen as blighted, neglected sites that are candidates for demolition.  And an opportunity, because identification and rehabilitation of those same sites can be a catalyst for neighborhood renewal, a harbinger of a broad revaluing of local heritage, and a boon to economic activity.

As prominent travel writer Arthur Frommer notes:

There is no evidence, not a single indication, of any city that has declined commercially from historic preservation policies.

It’s worth remembering that Frommer’s  travel guides predominantly celebrate those sites steeped in individuality, history, and authenticity.

Posted by Joe Jul 05, 2011 Posted in Economic Sustainability, Featured Comments Off

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