Providence, Rhode Island was lucky to have a weak economy a few decades ago, says Benfield. As other cities replaced their historic buildings with "newer but mediocre buildings," Providence missed out, leaving its downtown historic legacy intact.
"Providence may be a particularly fine example, but it is hardly the only city with underutilized historic assets that could become a cornerstone of future economic development," he explains. "Information has largely replaced manufacturing as America’s economic engine, and young, talented workers today are seeking walkable districts with character in which to work and live. (Just ask suburban Dublin, Ohio about that.) From Pasadena to Portland, from Paducah to Providence, saving and sprucing up these assets is the way to go."
"Providence is sometimes thought of as a declining city, but to me it seemed more like a promising one – poised for rebirth, fueled by the country’s emerging economy and demographics," he adds. "Its chances – like those of other, similarly situated communities – will be enhanced if it (1) recognizes the impressive assets that it has; (2) builds upon those assets by courting the right kinds of businesses and residents that appreciate character and walkability; and (3) preserves those assets for the future, starting with re-enacting the state’s historic property tax credit."