Path to the Future

October 20, 2015 Economics Comments (1) 1221

This Friday I will deliver a keynote address titled “Path To The Future” at the National Trust for Canada conference in Calgary.  The conference is titled “Heritage Energized” and the setting is the boomtown West, the kind of place that easily disregards the past in a rush toward the new.

Or is that just a stereotype?  It is hard to find a city in North America or Europe that has not seen an economic “boom” from its historic buildings, especially if those buildings are conserved in enough concentration to spark revitalization.  From Denver’s LoDo and Seattle’s Pioneer Square to Manhattan’s SoHo and Chicago’s Printers’ Row, it seems every town has an historic district that has turned into an economic engine.

Fort Collins, CO

Still, there are those who cling to the half-century old idea that historic buildings are museums and saving them is expensive.  Which it could be, in a vacuum, but the fact of the matter is that real estate is an asset whose value is entirely determined by externalities.  Like these >

You start saving historic buildings in a city and there is a positive knock-on effect.  Each one you save creates an externality that grants value to the next one.  It is like dominos falling UP rather than DOWN.

Indianapolis, IN

San Antonio, TX

I will of course talk about the many reasons we like to save buildings, sites, structures and places.  To conserve history and the lessons of the past; to hang on to our identity and roots; to retain elegance; to save precious resources and provide educational opportunities.  But the kicker is always jobs and economic growth.

Eureka, CA

Jobs that can’t be outsourced; resources from within; growth building on permanent, local fixtures not subject to the whim of a distant corporation.  There are other sustainable economic strategies, but heritage conservation has proven to be one of the best and longest-lasting.

One Response to :
Path to the Future

  1. I hadn’t considered the “jobs that can’t be outsourced” aspect of historic preservation. A compelling addition to the conversation.

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