In the last few weeks, historic preservationists across the country have noted heightened threats to a key protective tool in saving places: historic districts. Swift-moving legislative efforts in Michigan and Wisconsin have been especially troubling. While threats to historic districts have existed before, accompanying negative editorials on sites such as CityLab call for a strong and concerted response. These attacks ignore the short- and long-term benefits of historic districts—economic, social and environmental—in favor of politically expedient but unnecessary curbs that would likely drive down the very development and investment that historic district opponents are trying to attract.
We know leaders in the field want to speak up but need the right tools and resources to make a strong case. Our efforts in Michigan and elsewhere are producing materials that can help you advocate for historic districts in your community.
Here is an initial list of resources to help with make the case for your historic district.
Note: This is just an initial list of materials to get the ball rolling. If you have anything you think should be added, email forumonline [at] savingplaces.org.
[Updated 2/17/16 with new Key Messaging document and some economic data on the Wisconsin HTC]
- Key Messaging About Local Historic Districts
- Sample e-alert from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
- Letter from David Brown, Chief Preservation Officer of the National Trust for Historic Preservation to the Michigan General Assembly
- Why Historic Preservation Districts Are Crucial to Cities by Stephanie Meeks in CityLab
- The Atlantic’s Anti-Historic-District Argument Is Wrong and Extreme (New York Magazine)
- Historic Districts, Economics and Misconceptions by Vince Michael
- Opinion: Michigan's Historic Districts Act isn't broke, so don't fix it by Jim Turner
- Owner Consent Provisions in Historic Preservation Ordinances: Are They Legal? (Julia Miller, Preservation Law Reporter, 1991)
- "Older, Smaller, Better" Executive Summary (NTHP)
- "Older, Smaller, Better" Forum Focus (NTHP)
- Economics of Uniqueness (World Bank)
- Introducing "Older, Smaller, Better"
- "Older, Smaller, Better"—Exploring Sources of Character and Urban Vitality Data
- Beyond Tourism: The Economics of Historic Preservation in Savannah
- Working on the Past in Local Historic Districts (National Park Service)
- A Proven Success: New York City's Landmarks Law
- Buildings that “contribute to the character of a listed historic district” in Wisconsin also have the opportunity to apply for a state historic tax credit. Baker Tilly, a Wisconsin-based accounting firm, illustrates how this incentive pays for itself in their 2015 report. The firm estimates that 40.3 percent of the state’s revenues from historic rehabilitation projects are returned to the state Treasury before historic tax credits are even issued. Moreover, the $35 million in historic tax credits awarded in 2014 will completely pay for themselves in seven years by generating an equal amount of new state income and sales taxes. These 25 rehabilitation projects are also expected to create $1.38 million in new local property taxes for local services and 2,800 full time jobs. [Two Pager | Full Report]
- More information on events in Michigan from MHPN and Preservation Detroit