The Economics Behind Preservation

A reoccurring theme in our readings and class discussions has been the importance of a holistic approach to analyzing cultural heritage. Week 7’s readings dove deeper into the economics of preservation and its impact in the field. In various ways the texts explained how there is typically some kind of economic benefits associated with the preservation of buildings and landscapes. In the past our line of work has been dominated by architects and archaeologist, and it is imperative that we find ways of bringing experts from different disciplines into the discussion. One way this can be achieved is through promoting the economic benefits or values of the preservation field.  I found the point about how economic values can be used to create/highlight the social value by bringing heritage and non-heritage users together particularly insightful, because it went further than connecting the value to monetary benefits.

Another aspect of the readings centered on incentives that allowed more communities to become involved in rehabilitation projects. In the economic impact study in Connecticut by the firm PlaceEconomics, various benefits such as the direct and indirect creation of jobs and the fact that tax credit and grant programs are making rehabilitation projects more “affordable” for builders and developers, were highlighted. The small non-for-profit developer I worked at in New Haven, CT. used programs and grants (some of which were listed in the impact study) to subsidize the various costs associated with our gut rehab projects. The focus area of the organization was in the impoverished neighborhoods of the city (Newhallville, the Hill, and Fair Haven areas), and the use of these funds (and other funds such as lead and asbestos removal funds) allowed us to sell affordable energy star certified rehabbed houses to low-to-moderate income families. For instance the construction costs alone for 2500 sqft. gut rehab could be around $300,000, and the organization would sell the property for about two-thirds of that cost. These funds allowed for a greater range of families to be able to afford properties that had historical character and were energy efficient.

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