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Thread: Cost/benefits of local historic districts

  1. #1
         
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    Cost/benefits of local historic districts

    We are in need of some advice or input regarding the costs and benefits of deeming an area a local historic district. Our downtown is somewhat vacant at this time, yet it has a number of old historic buildings. We have tossed around the idea of making it a local historic district, but our fear is that this distinction and the regulations that go with it could discourage new businesses from coming to this district. Conversely, the historic distinction could lead to renovations and tourism which could attract businesses and economic activity. Does anyone have any input in regards to what has resulted in other areas facing a similar situation. Keep in mind that our city is very small (8,000 people) and far from any metropolitan area. Thanks for your help.

  2. #2
         
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    Check with your state's historic preservation office for any studies they may have done. They can also tell you about any state tax benefits or grant programs that may be available for qualified improvements to historic structures. Also check with the Nation Main Street Program which is run by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Main Street program promotes historic preservation as a means of economic development in traditional downtowns.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Joe Iliff's avatar
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    If you are talking about costs and benefits in an economic sense, or measured by economic metrics, the master on this kind of information is Donovan Rypkema. His books and article are very good at describing the economic impacts of preservation actions.

    http://www.placeeconomics.com/rypkema_bio_2.html

    JOE ILIFF
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  4. #4
    Member Wulf9's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Joe Iliff
    If you are talking about costs and benefits in an economic sense, or measured by economic metrics, the master on this kind of information is Donovan Rypkema. His books and article are very good at describing the economic impacts of preservation actions.

    http://www.placeeconomics.com/rypkema_bio_2.html

    Definitely check out Don Rypkema. He is an economist who works with the economics of preservation and has workbooks and examples. Also, he has done studies in several states and cities with the conclusion that preservation districts usually increase property values, and the worst you get is no different than the same area without a historic district.

    Also, the national main street center has dollar amounts for main street programs. These are given in numbers of jobs, increases in sales, etc. For a downtown business district, the Main Street Program is the best way to improve the business climate.

    Finally, google "good jobs first." (I think that is the name) It gives examples of local employment from maintenance and rebuilding existing neighborhoods vs new construction. New construction usually works with imported materials and the least amount of local work -- and usually low cost labor. Most of the money goes out of town. Rebuilding and reconstruction, as needed for historic areas, uses local materials, local labor, and usually higher paid labor. Money stays in town.

    And finally, historic preservation can be done incrementally and usually within a budget. There are horror stories of high budget projects. You don't have to do that in most cases. For example, fix the one leaking window rather than re-windowing the entire building, You will pay a craftsman's wages to fix that one window, but less than the re-windowing project that the window salesman will try to sell you. And the crafstman will most likely be local, using local materials, and eating lunch at the downtown restaurants.

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    Member Wulf9's avatar
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    GSA studies found that historic buildings are less expensive to operate and maintain over time than new buildings. This is from an older GSA study, which disappeared from the web sometime after 2000.


    Recent analysis conducted by PBSí Cultural, Environmental and Accessibility programs indicates that cleaning, maintenance, and utility costs at GSA-controlled historic buildings have been consistently lower than comparable operating costs for non-historic GSA buildings. Post-World War II buildings tend to consume more energy due to higher glazing-to-surface ratios and thinner exterior wall construction. Contemporary interior finishes using man-made materials are more likely to require frequent renewal or replacement in contrast to generously dimensioned natural finish materials such as stone and wood, designed to last indefinitely with routine maintenance. Minimally engineered modern building envelopes are also more prone to detailing failures remedied only by major capital investment after 20-30 years of service life. On the other hand, many of GSAís pre-World War II traditional stone buildings remain architecturally sound after minimal exterior investment over a 60-70 year period.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    "Historic" destinations are among the places tourists most like to visit when on a trip. Of course, you can develop that historic atmosphere in a variety of ways, from basic design codes that allow considerable flexibility, to more stringent Secretary of the Interior guidelines.

    I believe I have some information on the economics of preservation in my library. I will see what I can dig up.
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  7. #7
         
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    Thanks for the information everybody. It is much appreciated!

    IMP

  8. #8
    Quote Originally posted by Iron Mountain Plan
    Thanks for the information everybody. It is much appreciated!

    IMP
    Just wanted to say hello to a fellow Yooper!

    Good luck with the historic district.

    - belinda

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Clore's avatar
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    Declaring an area a Historic District carries NO regulations with it, even if it is a Nationally Registered Historic District. The ONLY regulations that would come into play are what the LOCAL government would pass by means of an ordinance. You can have a Historic District in place without any regulations.
    Having a national historic district does bring some tax benefits to owners of income producing properties if they invest money and do projects according to the Secretary of the Interior's standards, which means historically sensitive.
    It is a total myth that a hsitopric designation carries any type of regulation with it.
    It can certainly open the door for grants and other benefits. I see no negative side to it at all.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Clore
    Declaring an area a Historic District carries NO regulations with it, even if it is a Nationally Registered Historic District. The ONLY regulations that would come into play are what the LOCAL government would pass by means of an ordinance. It is a total myth that a hsitopric designation carries any type of regulation with it.
    To put an even finer point on this: without some type of local regulation/ordinance, owners of properties designated as historic continue to have every right to renovate structures any way they like (that is, to any design standard they choose). They also have the right to demolish the building, if they so choose.

    I have yet to hear of an effective way to prevent an owner of a historicly designated property from defacto demolition of a property via intentional neglect (i.e. lack of any maintenance at all).
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  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    Contact Ted Ligibel, Director of the Historic Preservation program at Eastern Michigan University. It is the only program in the state and he could offer you some good suggestions and advice. His email address is tligibel@emich.edu

    Good luck!

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by SGB
    I have yet to hear of an effective way to prevent an owner of a historicly designated property from defacto demolition of a property via intentional neglect (i.e. lack of any maintenance at all).
    I am not doubting your statement but I am surprised. If there is a building maintenance standard, surely the owner is compelled to adhere to it?

    Ultimately the most effective way to promote conservation in the case of a stubbornly stupid owner is to just buy it off him, by eminent domain, if necessary.
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