A case for Historic Preservation as an Economic Development strategy

About the Author

CED Program Interns & Students

Fredrick Davis is a UNC-Chapel Hill graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in City and Regional Planning. He is currently working with North Carolina’s Northeast Commission in Edenton as part of the Carolina Economic Revitalization Corps program.

Does preservation pay? What are the economic benefits of   historic preservation on a local economy? With coursework on community and economic development, I have had the opportunity to study the impact unique, innovative and sustainable tools and strategies have on a locality.   I particularly found an interest in how some of these strategies are utilized in small, rural communities given my time and experience this summer as a member of the Carolina Economic Recovery Corps (CERC) in northeastern North Carolina.  These questions were raised, while studying how certain forms of economic benefits are related to historic preservation. Historic Preservation and the build environment have been of particular interest to me. This interest along with the issues of community and economic development in small and rural communities is the basis for selecting this topic for my master’s thesis in the Department of City and Regional Planning.

Scholars, economists and experts in preservation, have stated the benefits historic preservation can have on the economy. These benefits include direct and indirect job creation, an increase in local spending and household incomes, a maintained cultural identity, increased property values, and growth in industry sectors such as tourism. Over the course of this semester and as apart my focus for my master’s thesis, I will continue to study and analyze the benefits of preservation on a community’s economy. Many of the communities I work with as a part of the CERC program have some presence of historic buildings.  These buildings could be the assets and strength for local communities to build upon for economic growth.

Small and rural communities in northeastern North Carolina, and the rest of the nation, are searching for ways to compete in the global economy. Successful economic development activities in local municipalities are often measured by quantifiable results. These results are often seen in the number of jobs created.  Historic preservation not only has the potential to create jobs but, as I seek to discover through research and design, historic preservation can have other long-lasting impacts for community and economic development. The desired outcome of this research is to develop an evaluation program for economic value in historic preservation. This tool could be used by practitioners, county managers and local officials in determining the use of historic preservation as a tool for community and economic development. Over the course of the semester I hope to highlight various case studies involving historic preservation and its role with economic development. Hopefully, this tool will help communities make best use of the resources that already exist in their community.

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