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This blog is a place for dialogue on issues and actions relating to Boston's unique built environment and the preservation and continuing evolution of historic resources within it. My goal, as the Executive Director of the Boston Preservation Alliance, is to post timely, relevant and thought-provoking intelligence, ideas, and insights that will engage conversations, inform our actions, and broaden perspectives on preservation.

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Greg Galer, Executive Director, Boston Preservation Alliance

Executive Director

AllianceViews Blog

The Economic Benefits of Historic Preservation Demonstrated Again and Again – Learn More!

February 18th, 2014  |  Posted by: Greg Galer

Several recent items in print support the argument preservationists have been making for years, that reuse of existing building stock is not only important for preserving community character, but it makes good economic sense.  A recent article in the Providence Journal and a study by Virginia Commonwealth University demonstrate the tremendous economic power of historic tax credits – how public investment through federal and state tax credit programs for adaptive use of existing structures leverage far more dollars than these programs cost. A recent study by the Department of Defense takes a long, complex analysis (it’s the DOD, of course it’s long and complex!) – “Demonstrating the Environmental & Economic Cost-Benefits of Reusing DoD’s Pre-World War II Buildings.”

The Providence Journal editorial by Valerie Talmage, the executive director of Preserve Rhode Island and Scott Wolf, the executive director of Grow Smart Rhode Island notes:

The program [RI state historic tax credit program] has an outstanding track record. Everybody watched as, from 2002 to 2008, it generated $1.3 billion in new private investment in Rhode Island’s real-estate economy: leveraging of private investment; 22,000 construction jobs; 6,000 permanent jobs; total wages over $800 million; and increased property-tax revenue for cities and towns.”

And in Virginia, the study there concludes: “During the 17-year period, nearly $1 billion in tax credits leveraged almost $3 billion in private investment, resulting in the rehabilitation of 2,375 buildings—ranging from warehouses, hotels, theaters and even part of a prison complex to private residences. Expenses of $3.97 billion for these rehabilitation projects serves as a catalyst on sectors of the economy to stimulate an additional estimated $3.9 billion in activity, adding to the state’s overall economic well being.”   

The RI study also notes, “Significantly, most of the rehabilitation projects completed during the years covered by the study would never have been undertaken without the incentives offered to developers and property owners through the state and federal tax credits.”  And that tax credit projects “reliably attracted private investment in rehabilitation projects that kept many carpenters, electricians, and other skilled trades people working, when very little new construction was under way. During those years [2007-2009], there was only “a moderate decline in historic rehabilitation activity,” according to the VCU report. 

The full RI study is available here:

The 51-page Virginia study is available as a downloadable PDF:

 The DOD 125 page report, “Demonstrating the Environmental & Economic Cost-Benefits of Reusing DoD’s Pre-World War II Buildings” is available online as well:

It concludes:

Renovation of Pre-War Buildings can be cost effective compared to new construction on a life-cycle cost basis, both with and without factoring in the monetized value of GHG [Green house gas] emissions.” Among the report’s recommendations are to “Place more emphasis on existing buildings as viable project alternatives to meet mission requirements and DoD’s energy reduction targets.”  And to “improve the MILCON [military construction] procurement process to ensure that construction contractors and design and engineering professionals with historic preservation experience are engaged to ensure that DoD has capacity to effectively evaluate its inventory of historic and other older, existing buildings.


Next month you have a chance to learn more about the many ways Historic Preservation generate economic success:

Join us for a unique opportunity to learn more about the positive economic aspects of preservation.

On Thursday, March 20 at 6PM at The Modern Theatre (525 Washington Street) join the Boston Preservation Alliance for an engaging program on “The Economic Benefits of Historic Preservation.” 

This AllianceForum-2014 features experts in the field.  Keynote speaker Donovan Rypkema, a recognized leader in the economics of preserving historic structures in the U.S. and abroad (, will be joined by panelists:

Lawrence Curtis, President and Managing Partner of Winn Development, a major national developer with deep experience in historic redevelopment;

Rebecca Lee, Partner at the law firm of Edwards Wildman Palmer who has extensive experience on legal preservation issues and is also former Chief of Staff and Special Counsel to the Director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority; and

Jerold Kayden, the Frank Backus Williams Professor of Urban Planning and Design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, who is principal constitutional counsel to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and has extensive national and international experience in urban planning and land development. 

The event is free and all are encouraged to attend and take part in the dialog.

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