Why We Neglect Historic Preservation In Low-income Neighborhoods

Historic preservation and urban revitalization may seem perfect pairs, but the two rarely meet as often as they should.
May 23, 2005, 2pm PDT | Abhijeet Chavan
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Philadelphia's most attractive and expensive neighborhoods are often at least partially contained within historic districts that protect the old urban form of the built environment. Not so for low-income sections. "While most of Philadelphia's historic districts are in well-off areas, it is our poorest areas that need protection the most."

Because of the fears that historic preservation efforts would price-out low income residents, sections of the city that are every bit as historic as those protected are left to the will of the wrecking ball. "Developers — or the city for that matter--don't hesitate to tear down dilapidated houses in North or West Philly that would be rehabbed and renovated in a wealthier community."

But it is because developers are less inclined to preserve on tight budgets that preservation efforts in these neighborhoods are so important. Instead of seeing the two as opposing forces, they should be designed to complement each other. "Historic buildings are our neighborhoods' greatest assets for revitalization. By destroying them, we deprive our poorest neighborhoods of valuable opportunities for current residents and business owners."

Thanks to Ted Leimbach

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Published on Thursday, May 19, 2005 in Philadelphia City Paper
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