Smart States Support Their Economies with Preservation Incentives

As central cities become prized by young professionals and the companies that want to lure them, it behooves states to recognize the value of the historic buildings that bring unique character to workplaces and urban environs, writes Kaid Benfield.
April 29, 2013, 2pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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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."

However, states such as Rhode Island and Missouri, have dismantled, or are considering dismantling, preservation incentives that are crucial to renovating and reusing historic properties.  

"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."

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Published on Monday, April 29, 2013 in NRDC Switchboard Blog
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