FACT: The purpose of historic preservation is to accurately reflect and celebrate the unique story of a community and its people through its built environment. Our work as preservationists is guided by the American principle of diversity, and therefore the full range of the American experience is reflected in our historic landmarks. From the elegant Gamble House in Pasadena, designed by the Greene Brothers as the retirement residence of wealthy Midwesterners, to the modest Ralph Bunche house in South Los Angeles, the boyhood home of the first African-American winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, to the Watts Towers of Simon Rodia – all are irreplaceable historic landmarks that contribute to our understanding of ourselves as a people with a common heritage.
What’s more, in almost every case, official landmark designation helps to increase property values. A recent study in New York City demonstrated that, in the nearly five decades since the establishment of the Landmarks Commission in 1965, property values in historic districts are “unfailingly higher than in comparable, non-designated parts of the city” (Anthony M. Tung, former New York City Landmarks Commissioner, author of Preserving the World’s Great Cities).
A similar study in Canada, conducted by Dr. Robert Shipley, evaluated the economic effect of historic designation on individual properties. Over a 20-year period in the province of Ontario, more than 2,700 individual properties received official designation under the Ontario Heritage Act. Professor Shipley found that these properties were more saleable, better able to resist downturns in the real estate market, and increased their value at least as well or better than the average property values in their communities.
Alhambra needs a planning policy that incorporates historic preservation! We invite you to ask your city council members – and candidates for that office – about their position on this important issue.
This is the fourth and final article in a month-long series entitled May Monday Mythbusters where we explored some of the myths surrounding preservation. We hope you have enjoyed this educational series and have learned a bit more about why preservation makes cents!
Photo courtesy of ercwttmn.