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SPOTLIGHT ON SAVANNAHHSF-Beyond-Tourism-Report-2015-v4 1

PlaceEconomics recently completed a study for the Historic Savannah Foundation that measured the economic impact of historic preservation beyond the benefits of heritage tourism. The analysis illustrates the many ways historic preservation plays a positive role in the community.

The report entitled “Beyond Tourism: Historic Preservation in the Economy and Life of Savannah and Chatham County” will be released soon.

Key findings include:

  • Savannah’s historic districts comprise 8% of the city’s land area, 15% of its buildings; 16% of its population, 24% of its taxable value and 31% of its jobs.
  • Just the work done using the federal historic tax credit has meant an average of 169 jobs and $7.5 million in labor income each year over the last 15 years.
  • Historic districts are a particular attraction for jobs in the arts and culture and other knowledge industries.
  • Small firms and start-up firms disproportionately choose to locate in Savannah’s historic neighborhoods.
  • Property values in Savannah’s historic districts have outperformed the city as a whole.
  • The “preservation premium” from that faster rate of appreciation provides nearly $10 million dollars each year to Chatham County, Savannah and the school district.
  • The strategic investments of the Historic Savannah Foundation and the Savannah College of Art and Design have stabilized neighborhoods and served as a catalyst for additional investment.
  • The measurable economic benefits of historic preservation are not just apparent in Savannah but significantly in Tybee Island as well, particularly in its Main Street district.



In the spring of 2015, PlaceEconomics undertook a survey to try to understand what local incentives were being used in downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts. We wanted to learn about incentives for both buildings in the commercial districts but also for business retention, expansion and recruitment. Additionally we hoped to learn who provided the incentives, who funded the incentives and which of the incentives were most effective.

The survey was conducted using Survey Monkey© and was distributed both on Facebook and through an arrangement with the National Main Street Center. The Center graciously used their electronic information distribution system to notify members of the Main Street Network of the link to the survey.

In all 306 surveys were completed. Responses came from 46 states and the District of Columbia.

The results of the survey are found here. The answers are broken into three broad categories: information on the respondents; incentives for buildings; and incentives for businesses.

Incentives are an important part of local economic development, but it is essential to use the right incentive at the right time and to use incentives not on an ad hoc basis but as a specific tool to advance a specific public policy objective.

In the News

Making Historic Preservation More Economical 

(January 2015)

“Rypkema, a nationally known urbanist, gestures across West Commerce Street from the Municipal Plaza Building to make his second point. The c. 1938 Kress Building, a former dime store, at 201 W. Commerce Street, stands empty.“Why isn’t that housing?” he asked. “On this block there’s gotta be eight buildings that in most cities of this size … somebody would have scarfed them up.” Good question.”

Rivard Report

Michigan Prosperity Agenda: A Conversation from the National Main Streets Conference in Detroit!
(May 28, 2014)
“It’s not every day that more than 1,300 people from throughout the nation come to see the exciting things happening in Detroit, but that’s exactly what happened when the Motor City, for the first time ever, hosted the 2014 National Main Streets Conference at the GM Renaissance Center. And the Prosperity Agenda radio show was there to catch all the action. This month’s Prosperity Agenda radio show on News/Talk 760 WJR hit the road and was taped in the conference’s exhibition hall on May 18… Cara Bertron is the director of PlaceEconomics’ Rightsizing Cities Initiative, which works to strengthen neighborhoods in legacy cities. She discusses a model they have developed that uses 77 different variables to measure the health and potential of neighborhoods.”
Michigan Prosperity Agenda

Lessons From Downtown: Ferndale, Detroit and a Nation of Main Street Stories
(May 22, 2014)
“‘I’ve heard all of the excuses people have made for not coming,’ Donovan Rypkema, principal of Washington D.C.-based PlaceEconomics says to a large crowd in Cobo Center. ‘Thank you for putting stereotypes and conventional wisdom aside and showing up.’ Rypkema was speaking to more than 1,300 downtown development professionals, volunteers and thought leaders from communities throughout the country who are converging on Detroit this week for the first National Main Street Conference in Detroit… Over the last 30 years, the National Main Street Center has tracked $59.6 billion in reinvestment in physical improvements from both public and private sources in their communities, with a net gain of 115,381 businesses and 502,728 jobs. In 2013, every dollar invested in Main Street communities resulted in $33.28 of economic impact, making it most effective downtown revitalization effort in the country.”

Michigan Main Street Program Provides Economic Boost for Participating Communities
(May 19, 2014)
“The economic benefits of the Michigan Main Street Center were unveiled during the National Main Streets Conference, the country’s leading downtown revitalization conference in Detroit today. Speaker Donovan Rypkema of PlaceEconomics shared the positive news with an engaged crowd of about 1,300 city planners, community revitalization professionals and volunteers… ‘In the past decade, Michigan has seen the ups and downs of the national and state economy,’ Rypkema said. ‘Through it all, its historic downtowns – with the support of the Main Street program – have persevered and prospered. The words Main Street may evoke images of warm summer nights at a downtown festival, but they also should signify real return on investment and renewed community commitment.'”
Digital Journal

Big Data: A New Frontier in Historic Preservation?
(March 4, 2014)
“The world of Big Data allows us to develop and implement new survey tools that use smartphones and tablets to catalog resources… In Muncie, Ind., Donovan Rypkema and Cara Bertron of PlaceEconomics piloted a new analytic tool called Relocal. Using the tool, a team of volunteers traveled Muncie’s streets and used mobile devices to collect property information and characterize the state of buildings and neighborhoods. Once assembled, the Relocal data was used to create a strategic plan with recommendations for fostering stable, sustainable neighborhoods throughout the city.”
Preservation Leadership Forum

Straight talk on preservation and rightsizing cities: Preservation Provocateur Cara Bertron
(March 1, 2014)
“Delivering straight talk about rightsizing cities, GRAY AREA’s Preservation Provocateur Cara Bertron uses phrases not often heard in preservation circles: ‘strategic demolition,’ ‘land banks,’ ‘pragmatism,’ ‘preservation bubble.’ …The rightsizing movement – reshaping a city’s physical fabric to meet current and anticipated population – is both ‘politically fraught’ and in its formative stages, Bertron says, so the time is now for activists to make sure preservation is at the table… Her brand of pragmatism extends to accepting that not every older building is a candidate for preservation. ‘We have to acknowledge that strategic demolition is okay,’ she says. ‘We also have to ask hard questions about market demand … it does not always make sense to rehabilitate a building.'”
Gray Area

Pro-demolition preservationists? Cara Bertron explores rightsizing and preservation
(February 14, 2014)
“‘Our job as preservationists is to argue for rightsizing,’ Cara Bertron contended before a crowd of preservationists at University of the Arts Wednesday evening. That means getting behind targeted demolition in some areas, helping build on the best resources of older neighborhoods, and forging some unconventional partnerships… Preservationists like to think they’re expert at ‘managing change.’ Bertron argues it’s time to put those tools to work in new ways, engaging in community conversations and working with public agencies to help make critical decisions about the fate of historic neighborhoods. In turn, Bertron believes, preservationists may be better able to save aging but valuable assets in legacy cities.”

Report: New Mexico Main Street Program Works
(February 5, 2014)
“There are 27 MainStreet programs throughout New Mexico and since its inception, $1 billion has been invested in the commercial districts for restoration and development. But often missed from the effort is the economic activity that happens after the construction is completed… Now the program has tried to document that with an economic impact report released last week by Donovan D. Rypkema, principal of PlaceEconomics… Rypkema was able to conclude that the program is partly responsible for expanding the jobs base in many of the small communities. ‘There’s significantly greater job creation in restoration than new construction… And these are not jobs that can be shipped to Indonesia next month, they have to stay in New Mexico.'”
Santa Fe New Mexican

Historical District Too Big To Tackle All at Once, in Expert’s Opinion
(January 25, 2014)
“Rypkema believes historic preservation is, in and of itself, sustainable development. He pointed to numerous studies and examples from several U.S. cities he says back up his claim. He said rehabilitating historic buildings creates more jobs and income than new construction and many types of manufacturing and it often raises property values.”
The Montana Standard

NM Above National Average for Main Street Program Growth
(December 12, 2013)
“The New Mexico Main Street program, over 28 years, has leveraged millions of dollars in private investments and created several thousand jobs in the state, according to the report released Thursday morning at the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce… The study was done by Donovan Rypkema of PlaceEconomics of Washington, D.C… The more telling numbers that show the success of the program, Rypkema said, are those that show the number of businesses opening in Main Street zones is more than double the national average and for every dollar put into the program, the state sees a $44.50 return on its investment.”
Albuquerque Business First

Read more news at In the News.