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Economic Benefits of Historic Preservation 

12-09-2015 17:35

The settings differed. The methodologies varied. The particulars were distinct, yet the conclusions were the same: historic preservation is having a significant positive impact on state economies around the U.S. In the last two and one-half years five statewide analyses of the economic benefits of historic preservation have been completed. Every one identified and quantified substantial benefits. The findings shared certain common denominators. The job-creating impact of rehabilitation, for example, was found consistently. The decidedly greater economic impact of heritage tourism when compared to tourism in general was another common denominator of most of the studies. But each study also produced distinctive findings and measured impacts not investigated in the others. Highlights of the studies are summarized below. While these were not the only findings, nor necessarily the most important, together they begin to illuminate the magnitude of preservation`s economic importance.

Virginia`s Economy and Historic Preservation: The Impact of Preservation on Jobs, Business, and Community, The Preservation Alliance of Virginia, 1995.

  • The investment of more than $350 million in the rehabilitation of some 900 income-producing buildings using the federal historic rehabilitation tax credit has provided Virginia with 12,697 jobs and an increase in household income of nearly $275 million.
  • Historic preservation visitors stay longer, visit twice as many places, and spend, on average, more than two and one-half times more money in Virginia than do other visitors.
  • In the past 10 years, 20 small Virginia Main Street communities with populations under 50,000 have seen more than $54 million of private funds invested in the rehabilitation of more than 1,600 buildings.
  • Property values of historic buildings and sites in communities as diverse as Fredericksburg, Richmond, and Staunton significantly out-perform the appreciation rates of nonhistoric properties.

For more information, contact the Preservation Alliance of Virginia, 700 Harris Street, Suite 106, Charlottesville, VA 22902. Telephone (804) 984-4484. Available from the National Trust.

Historic Preservation and the Economy of the Commonwealth: Kentucky`s Past at Work for Kentucky`s Future, Kentucky Heritage Council and Commonwealth Preservation Advocates, 1997.

  • Of the $40.5 million in federal funds spent on ISTEA projects, almost 75 percent went to projects with a historic preservation component.
  • In 200 of Kentucky`s 385 National Register Historic Districts, 20 percent or more of the households are below the poverty line. In total an estimated 30 percent of all poverty-level families in Kentucky live in houses built before World War II. If that housing were replaced today, it would cost the taxpayers of Kentucky more than $4.5 billion.
  • Historic preservation provides Kentucky with an entry to the global marketplace. The historic buildings used by companies selling goods and services around the world range from the Labrot & Graham Distillery, rehabilitated at a cost of $7 million by the Brown-Forman Corporation, to the Elmwood Inn in Perryville (population 780), from which mail order teas are sold to a worldwide clientele.
  • Across a wide range of agencies on the state, county, regional, and municipal levels, historic preservation is being used not only to conserve old buildings, but to conserve scarce taxpayer dollars as well.

For more information, contact the Kentucky Heritage Council, 300 Washington Street, Frankfort, KY 40601. Telephone (502) 564-7005. Available from the National Trust.

Preservation & Property Values in Indiana, Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, 1997.

  • Historic districts often mirror the surrounding community in terms of their economic, educational, and racial diversity.
  • Historic districts promote increased levels of home ownership.
  • People moving into historic districts aren`t just passing through; they tend to be home owners for extended periods, increasing neighborhood stability.
  • Buyers who choose historic districts often have wider choices and get more house, dollar for dollar, for their money.

Available from the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, 340 West Michigan Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202. Telephone (800) 450-4534. The publication is free for in-state orders, $7.24 out of state.

Economic Impacts of Historic Preservation, New Jersey Historic Trust, 1997.

  • New Jersey preservation activities stimulate $298 million in federal, state, and local taxes within New Jersey and $415 million in taxes nationwide.
  • Preservation contributes $543 million in gross state product and $929 million in gross domestic product.
  • Every $1 million spent on nonresidential historic rehabilitation creates two jobs more than the same money spent on new construction. It also generates $79,000 more in income, $13,000 more in taxes, and $111,000 more in wealth.
  • Preservation in New Jersey creates 21,575 jobs each year, 10,140 of them in state.

A 20-page summary of the full report is available free of charge from New Jersey Historic Trust, P.O. Box 404, Trenton, NJ 08625. Telephone (609) 984-0473.

Profiting from the Past: The Impact of Historic Preservation on the North Carolina Economy, Preservation North Carolina, 1998.

  • Tourism is the second largest industry in North Carolina, employing 161,000 people and producing $2.5 billion in annual pay. The number one reason visitors come to North Carolina is its historic resources.
  • The crafts industry in western North Carolina employs 4,000 crafts workers and artists and adds $48 million annually to their household incomes. Often the most effective sites from which to sell their crafts are North Carolina`s historic buildings and downtowns.
  • The North Carolina movie industry is now the third largest in the country and has seen direct expenditures of $4.6 billion since 1980. The fabric of the state`s historic commercial areas and residential neighborhoods is a significant draw for the movie industry.
  • Over the last 20 years the Revolving Fund of North Carolina has acquired and resold more than 300 properties representing an ultimate investment of more than $60 million. The properties now generate between $1 and $2 million each year in property taxes, which support schools, towns, and counties.

Available from Preservation North Carolina, P.O. Box 27644, Raleigh, NC 27611-7644. Telephone (919) 832-3652. $5 per copy, discounts on larger orders. At this writing, other studies of preservation`s economic impact are in planning or under way in at least five states and a number of localities. The economic impact of historic preservation may not, in the end, be its most important attribute. But studies like these are attracting the attention of decision makers who might in the past have dismissed historic preservation as a cute but not crucial activity. Today they are learning otherwise.

Publication Date: May/June 1998

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Author(s):Donovan D. Rypkema