Do you have a building that you’re interested in preserving? Here’s where to start:
While they can be cost-effective in their own right, historic preservation projects also have a different kind of economic return – one that accrues not to the property owner, but to the larger community.
Preservation projects often mean more labor and fewer materials – a balance that may matter little to the developer, but a lot to the community. When a building already exists, you’re paying less for goods to be shipped in from elsewhere and more for local labor. “Twenty percent more labor equals more local jobs and more household income in the local community. On a $1 million project, that could mean 3 to 3.5 more jobs locally,” says Donovan Rypkema, principal at economic development consulting firm PlaceEconomics (Washington, DC).
“You’re also restoring a part of the community fabric, and that makes the whole neighborhood a better place to live,” says Dan Gilpin of Straub Construction (Shawnee, KS).
A vacant old school, for example, can be unsightly and attract squatters. If it’s converted to housing, not only have you improved the building’s market and tax value, you’ve eliminated an eyesore and made the neighborhood safer. In some cases, a preservation project can create added tax structure for the city and/or county. With a building that’s converted to housing, new tenants will be paying taxes, too.
High-profile projects may well have catalytic effects on the likelihood of additional investment within a community – from investors and homeowners alike. “We’ve seen that when you do a project like this, it gives the whole community a sense of wanting to better itself,” says Gilpin. “It puts desire back into the community, and everyone benefits.”