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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.

We want to hear from you — so start a conversation, share a thought or comment, and let us know what you think.

Greg Galer, Executive Director, Boston Preservation Alliance

Executive Director

AllianceViews Blog

A Plethora of Data Show Preservation Works

June 13th, 2014  |  Posted by: Greg Galer


One Example of Metrics in Historic Neighborhoods (in this case in Seattle)

One Example of Metrics in Historic Neighborhoods (in this case in Washington, DC)

The benefits of our historic resources are many, and those of you reading this blog are likely mostly “the converted,” people who recognize and support efforts to preserve and enhance the historic character of cities like Boston for the many wonderful things such work brings to a city’s vitality and economic success. We have for decades been extoling the virtues of historic cities, historic neighborhoods and landscapes, and individual buildings. While we’ve had much anecdotal data to report, and many great examples to which we can point and say, “See, look, right there, see all those restaurants and people? See those successful businesses? See the people living in this neighborhood and making an active community,” we have at times struggled to point to real data – real numbers that support our claims about the many benefits that follow a preservation-minded ethos for urban planning and development. And this lack of metrics is a challenge for us, living in a data-focused society and, perhaps more significantly, a data-focused political world.

If we want to be convincing, if we want to have a seat at the table, we need numbers to back up both our anecdotal information and our emotional connections. Sure, preserving our history is about as “Motherhood and apple pie” as one can get. Who is going to argue with the feel-good aspect of saving places intimately connected with our past? But the reality is that emotional ties will only get us so far. When people ask “where are the numbers”? We need to have answers.

The Boston Preservation Alliance dipped our toe into this issue with our AllianceForum2014:  Preservonomics 101- The Economic Benefits of Historic Preservation last March. If you missed it you can still watch on our web site: (bottom left). There Donovan Rypkema, an expert on preservation economics, wowed the audience with statistic after statistic of the many economic and environmental benefits of our historic neighborhoods and building stock.

Now, however, there are some recent reports, all readily available online, that are worthy of examination. They each provide arrows to our quiver as we promote our cause.  And, it is important to remind you (as my last blog posting was focused), that the Federal Historic tax credit remains under threat.  Data such as noted here is essential to our success.

So, take a look at these reports– skim or read in detail, but I request that from each you pull out some facts and figures that motivate you, and share them. Share them with your friends and neighbors, with your community, with your workplace colleagues over the water cooler. Pick up the phone or your keyboard and contact your representatives locally and in Washington and tell them how much the historic character of the city matters to you AND how there is data to prove  with dollars and cents it should matter to them as well.


Arts Boston recently released “The Arts Factor 2014: Measureable Impact. Boundless Possibilities,” a study showing the economic Impact of “Arts and Culture” and the historic fabric of the city is an important part of its cultural success.

Did you know: 18 Million people are welcomed by Boston Arts every year – that’s enough to sell out Fenway Park 488 times!  That arts and culture generate $1billion in direct spending.

The report points to the critical identity, vitality, innovation, and transformation brought by Arts and Culture to the city of Boston.

Take a look at some remarkable numbers:


The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently published “Older Smaller Better: Measuring how the character of buildings and blocks influence Urban Activity”

This study uses innovative statistical analysis to test the long-cited work of Jane Jacobs’ 1961 book, The Death and Life of the Great American City. Jacobs argued that urban renewal sucked the energy and vitality from urban centers, where instead historic neighborhoods with their diversity of buildings and spaces fostered a healthy mix of local businesses. Using a variety of metrics the study concludes that older neighborhoods and their buildings support many of the characteristics we now recognize as desirable for social, economic, and environmental reasons.  They are walkable, embraced by young people, active with nightlife, provide affordable and flexible space for entrepreneurs, foster a creative and local economy, and support a desirable density but in a way that is hidden and contextual with stats like high jobs per commercial square foot.

Check it out:


Each year the National Park Service analyzes the impact of Federal Tax Incentives of Rehabilitating Historic Buildings. The report for the Fiscal Year 2013 clearly demonstrates the tremendous success of this program.  For example, in 2013 there were 1,155 projects and $6.73 billion of rehab. work approved and $3.39 billion in projects completed.  This work created nearly 63,000 jobs and over 7,000 units of low and moderate income.

Take a look for yourself:





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