Who We Are
Donovan Rypkema is principal of PlaceEconomics, a Washington, DC-based real estate and economic development consulting firm. The firm specializes in services to public and nonprofit-sector clients who are dealing with downtown and neighborhood commercial district revitalization and the reuse of historic structures. In 2004 Rypkema established Heritage Strategies International, a new firm created to provide similar services to worldwide clients. He also teaches a graduate course in preservation economics at the University of Pennsylvania. Rypkema began his consulting practice in Rapid City, South Dakota, and relocated to Washington, DC, in 1985. He has performed real estate and economic development consulting services throughout the United States for State and local governments and nonprofit organizations with interests in a broad range of properties, from National Historic Landmark structures to Main Street commercial centers. His specific fields of consultation include feasibility analyses for real estate development, training in community-based development, economic revitalization of downtowns and neighborhood commercial centers, and the rehabilitation of historic structures.
Prior to 1985, Mr. Rypkema was involved in the direct development and management of residential, office, retail, and National Register-listed properties. He completed appraisals of over 1,500 properties including residences, office and apartment buildings, farms, ranches, and athletic facilities. His background includes teaching pre-licensing and continuing education courses for real estate professionals.
Today, Mr. Rypkema is recognized as an industry leader in the economics of preserving historic structures. Since 1983 he has provided ongoing consulting services to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and its National Main Street Center. He has undertaken assignments in 49 states and the District of Columbia. In 2012, the National Trust for Historic Preservation awarded him the Louise du Pont Crowninshield Award, the organization’s highest honor, for his work in the preservation field.
Rypkema was educated at Columbia University, where he received a Masters of Science degree in Historic Preservation. He has lectured widely on economic and preservation issues relating to rehabilitation, community development and commercial revitalization. Mr. Rypkema’s short courses and workshops have been delivered to architects, bankers, developers, preservationists, planners, and downtown managers. He is author of several publications including Community Initiated Development, The Economics of Rehabilitation, and the Downtown Real Estate Development Series. His articles have appeared in the Journal of the American Planning Association, Architectural Record, The Journal of Commercial Bank Lending, The Responsive Community, Urban Land, Real Estate Finance, Investment Decisions, Places, Preservation Forum, Vital Speeches, the Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society and others. In Washington he has served on the Boards of Directors of North Capital Neighborhood Development Corporation and the Washington Council of Agencies.
Rypkema has worked with such groups as the Urban Land Institute, the Mayors’ Institute on City Design, the American Planning Association, the International Downtown Association, International Town and City Centre Conference, the World Monuments Fund, the Center for Livable Communities and hundreds of other international, national, statewide and local organizations. Rypkema worked with the U.S. Army’s Office of Historic Properties creating strategies for the redevelopment of historic buildings on active Army posts. As part of this effort he has written a Feasibility Assessment Manual to be used at the installation level Army-wide. In recent years, Mr. Rypkema has conducted statewide studies of the economic impact of historic preservation in Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Indiana, New York and Maryland and a citywide study in Philadelphia.
An updated edition of Rypkema’s book, The Economics of Historic Preservation: A Community Leader’s Guide, was published by the National Trust for Historic preservation in 2005 and is widely used by preservationists nationwide. In 2006 the Russian Center for Heritage Trusteeship translated and published a Russian edition of the book.
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Briana Paxton Grosicki is Director of Research at PlaceEconomics. She is responsible for establishing research methodologies, ensuring accuracy in data analysis, and helping increase our capacity to conduct qualitative and quantitative research studies. She has over 5 years’ experience with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and is skilled at using spatial analysis to answer research questions. Her work at PlaceEconomics has supported several statewide Main Street studies, citywide economic impact studies, and a new incentives initiative. Grosicki serves as Chair on her local municipal historic preservation commission in Muncie, Indiana and led a citywide parcel survey called ScoutMuncie. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions. She received a self-designed BS in the Study of the Built Environment from the College of William and Mary and an MS in Historic Preservation from the University of Pennsylvania.
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Emilie Evans is the Director of the Rightsizing Cities Initiative (RCI) with PlaceEconomics and leads projects using Relocal, our data-based tool that uses over 70 distinct metrics and a community priority survey to develop tailored, parcel-level recommendations for incorporating vacant buildings and lots into neighborhood revitalization strategies. Previously, Evans served as Detroit Preservation Specialist working jointly for the Michigan Historic Preservation Network and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. There she spearheaded a smartphone survey of nearly 18,000 historic properties across Detroit neighborhoods targeted for blight mitigation to help inform strategic demolition decisions. She is a co-founder and co-leader of Brick + Beam Detroit, a Knight Cities Challenge winner that coalesces a community of building rehabbers across Detroit and connects them with tradespeople, resources, and support to get reinvestment projects started. She also serves as Secretary of the Preservation Rightsizing Network. Prior to Detroit, Evans worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and served as Adjunct Associate Professor at Columbia University, from which Evans holds masters’ degrees in Historic Preservation and Urban Planning. Emilie is the 2015 winner of the American Express Aspire Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
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Rodney Swink, FASLA, PLA, is a Professor of the Practice at North Carolina State University’s College of Design and Senior Associate for Planning and Development at PlaceEconomics. He is also a consultant to local governments, nonprofits, and firms interested in community development and downtown revitalization. He also serves on Planning Commission of Raleigh, North Carolina. From 1984 – 2008, Swink served as director of the North Carolina Main Street Program and Director of North Carolina Office of Urban Development. Throughout his career, he has acted as a leader on numerous boards and commissions, including the Board of Advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum, the City of Raleigh Unified Development Ordinance Citizens Advisory Group, NC Downtown Development Association, the Raleigh Appearance Commission, Scenic North Carolina, and Preservation North Carolina where he is currently chairman of the board.
He also served as national president of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Swink attended North Carolina State University and achieved both a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and a Master of Landscape Architecture with a concentration in community planning and urban economics. Over the past three decades, Swink has won a variety of prestigious awards for his work in historic preservation, landscape architecture, and his humanitarian- and community-focused work. He has published a range of articles for the National Trust for Historic Preservation and publications including Raleigh Downtowner Magazine, Planetizen, Main Street News, and Carolina Planning.
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Carla Bruni is Associate for Engagement at PlaceEconomics. Bruni is also an independent consultant based in Chicago. Her consulting work has led to successfully listing several historic districts and single properties on the National Register of Historic Places, and she currently sits on the Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council. She co-authored Community Involvement Plans for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and collaborated with the Agency to create a comprehensive federal “green preservation” policy document. She has published numerous articles focusing on the changing face of historic preservation and is a frequent lecturer for neighborhood housing groups and universities. Bruni has worked on several projects with PlaceEconomics including assisting in the research for Catalyst for Change: The Federal Historic Tax Credit – Transforming Communities. In that regard she had primary responsibility for interviews identifying the qualitative contributions of tax credit projects in Georgia, Utah and Maryland. She is currently collaborating with PlaceEconomics on our study in Pittsburgh. Bruni holds an MS in Historic Preservation from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a BA from Loyola University Chicago in English. For fun, she welds, sits on development corporation boards, and runs free repair clinics, because sleep is overrated.
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