Advocacy Alerts

The Economics of Historic Preservation

preservation-admin , March 17, 2022

On February 24 the PSC welcomed Donovan Rypkema as a guest speaker at the Winter Membership Meeting. The historic American Theater on King Street was at capacity, and it served as a fitting location to discuss the role historic buildings play in downtown revitalization.

Mr. Rypkema is principal of PlaceEconomics, a private sector firm with decades of experience analyzing the economic impacts of historic preservation. With experience in cities large and small throughout the country, their cumulative research offers compelling evidence for preservation’s role as an economic development strategy.

The presentation, entitled “Historic Preservation and the Local Economy,” featured some of the most significant data the firm has compiled. Their reports are typically analytical and stop short of providing recommendations. That role falls to local preservation advocates who can use the data to convince decision-makers that local investments in historic preservation have paid off and will continue to pay off.

Rypkema noted that critiques of preservation often decry its impacts without defensible data. His firm’s findings from other cities are highly relevant. Our community, for instance, has recently grappled with questions over the scope of BAR authority and how to better enforce permit conditions. Comparative data showing the positive results of strong preservation policy empowers us to make the case for how our public investments in the stewardship of historic assets create positive economic impacts.

The presentation brought home that there is ample reason to celebrate the successes that have accrued to communities that embrace strong preservation policies. It also served as a reminder for why the preservation movement has evolved to celebrate more than just outstanding examples of architecture, but vernacular older neighborhoods built to last. The values inherent in our historic assets have become impossible to ignore for economists and environmentalists alike, even if they are hard to measure.

This spring’s edition of Preservation Progress will feature a more complete report on Rypkema’s compelling speech. Renew your membership now to ensure you receive a copy.

Thank you to all of the PSC members that joined us at this dynamic discussion. More details on Rypkema’s presentation can be found in the Charleston Regional Business Journal.

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