Posts by scott whipple
The value of historic preservation is often expressed in terms that are difficult to quantify. We are preserving cultural patrimony, maintaining a sense of place, safeguarding our architectural heritage.
But what if we could hang a number on the value of historic preservation?Â Actually, we can.
Look at tax credits issued for rehabbing historic properties. Montgomery County provides a 10-percent tax credit for qualified work on properties listed in the Countyâ€™s Master Plan for Historic Preservation or located in County-designated historic districts. The State of Maryland and federal government also offer rehabilitation tax credits that some property owners may be able to receive on top of the countyâ€™s program.
In 2012, the historic preservation commission reviewed applications for the county’s preservation tax credit program, recommending approval of $74,000 of tax credits for 56 projects.
The projects totaled $740,000 in investments in historic properties in Montgomery County. More of these dollars — paid to roofers, carpenters, painters, masons, and other contractors — stay local than dollars invested in other construction sectors.Â These dollars are cycled through our economy as these contractors purchase building materials, buy lunch or coffee, and pay their mortgage or rent.Â In fact, a Rutgers study found that 75 percent of the economic impact of historic preservation investments stays in the community.
Federal and state studies across the county also point to the local economic benefit generated by historic preservation. Â According to a Colorado study, every $1 million invested to rehabilitate historic buildings creates 32 new jobs (another way to think about this is one job is created for every $31,250Â invested in a rehab project). In fact, historic preservation projects in Colorado, the study said, led to the creation of nearly 35,000 jobs and $2.5 billion â€“ billion â€“ in economic impacts since 1981.
Closer to home, Governor Oâ€™Malley reported in 2010 that Marylandâ€™s tax credit program had generated $1.5 billion in direct rehabilitation investments and $8.50 in economic output for every $1 of tax credits.Â Oâ€™Malley pointed to Abell Foundation research that found that this investment in historic preservation created 1,850 more jobs than would have been created by an equal investment in new construction. Furthering these findings, economist Donovan Rypkema determined that jobs created by historic preservation outpace jobs created through the federal stimulus program. Rypkema compared one federal historic preservation program to the federal stimulus program and found that the preservation program created one job for every $13,780 invested, while the stimulus program created one job for every $248,000. Thatâ€™s a big difference.
By whatever metrics you want to use, it is clear that investment in historic resources creates jobs, circulates money in the local economy, and expands the countyâ€™s tax revenues.
So while part of the reason we do historic preservation is to retain the character of what makes Montgomery County a distinct and desirable place to live, work, and visit, we cannot overlook the numbers that demonstrate the significant contributions historic preservation makes to Montgomery Countyâ€™s economy.
Postscript: If you own an individually designated historic site or property within a Montgomery County historic district and have completed any rehabilitation work in calendar year 2012, you can apply for county tax credits.Â The application deadline has been extended to April 15, 2013.
About fifty people attended an open house at the Planning Department last weekend. Of all the intelligent questions and interesting conversations I had with people who stopped at the historic preservation station, my favorite was with an elementary school-aged girl who came in with her mom and younger brother. Our conversation went something like this.
I asked if the girl if knew what historic preservation was. She shrugged. I pointed to a display with photos of some old buildings, including a house in Takoma Park that had been abandoned and condemned but has recently been rehabilitated, sold, and is again lived in. She offered that preservation was about saving old buildings. Then I asked if she knew why historic preservation was important. A slight hesitation. A prompt from her mom about the three Rs. That was all it took. The girl took on an expression of understanding and confidence.
She told me that historic preservation is important because it was better to reuse buildings than to throw them in the trash.
Yes! This girl got it. OK, it took a slight prompt from her mom. But she got it. She was thinking differently. It is better to reuse buildings than to throw them in the trash.
I wonâ€™t claim that this girl will become a preservationist because of our brief conversation at the Planning Department open house (although I hope she does). But this young girl â€“ and her mom â€“ made my day. And they gave all of us something to think about. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. This environmental credo is a big part of why I think historic preservation is not just important, but essential. Perhaps â€“ just perhaps â€“ as this girl and her little brother grow up there will come a time that more of us will apply the three Rs to our buildings, when it will be just as second nature to reuse a building as it is to refill a reusable water bottle.
If you read my previous post for Historic Preservation Month, you know that in picking a theme for this yearâ€™s Preservation Month, the National Trust for Historic Preservation issued a challenge to people in communities across the country to discover hidden gems and celebrate local historic resources.Â Montgomery County historic preservation planners responded by preparing a list of historic resources we hope you will discover.
While Preservation Month has become a fun annual event to raise awareness and celebrate historic preservation nation-wide, our exploration of the countyâ€™s historic resources will continue long after we turn the page on May. Our efforts have led us to look beyond what many people recognize as historic, and to start thinking about buildings and places from a period of our history that historic preservationists have only recently begun to consider. Â Not long ago Montgomery County historic preservation planners launched a new initiative to study local mid-20th century modern buildings and communities, part of an effort we call MontgomeryModern. The historic value and design significance of the mid-century era â€” the 1940s through the 1960s â€” has, until recently, been largely overlooked. But as more than 50 years has passed since these buildings and communities were constructed, we have begun to investigate their historical, cultural and architectural importance. Â As a result of a more complete understanding of these mid-century resources, property owners and decision-makers may find more of these resources appropriate for historic preservation.
MontgomeryModern is exploring mid-century modern buildings and communities that reflect the optimistic spirit of the post-war era in Montgomery County, Maryland. Preservation planners want to help raise the public’s understanding of â€“ and appreciation for â€“ these buildings and communities developed during a time of tremendous growth in Montgomery County. To encourage your discovery of mid-century architecture we included four Modernist buildings or communities in our Preservation Month list of Montgomery County gems. Carderock Springs, a community of 275 houses designed by Keyes, Lethbridge, and Condon and developed by Edmund J. Bennett between 1962-1966, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Also listed in the National Register is Rock Creek Woods, a 76-house development that is one of several in Montgomery County by regionally prominent architect Charles Goodman.Â World-renowned architect Marcel Breuer designed the International-style Seymour Kreiger House in Bethesda.Â The Kreiger House, built in 1958, is listed in the National Register and is designated in the Montgomery County Master Plan for Historic Preservation.Â The WTOP Transmitter Building, built in 1939 in Wheaton, is also a landmark modernist building that has been designated in the Master Plan for Historic Preservation.
The intent of including in our list these four historic resources is to give you a taste of the remarkable mid-century modern buildings and communities we have in Montgomery County, and to encourage you to investigate our MontgomeryModern initiative as we learn more about hidden gems from the mid-century.