Eight Tips for Understanding the Complexities of Historic Districts

This news article appeared on National Trust for Historic Preservation, March 15, 2016

By David Weible


Any politician or community planner will tell you that zoning and districting is a complex concept, and though intentions are always good, it can be difficult to predict how one act will affect a neighborhood or city.

The same is true for establishing historic districts; unintended consequences are part of the reality. But by understanding the different ways in which historic districts can affect neighborhoods, we can help to ensure they result in an inclusive, accessible community, that both preserves the past and sets the stage for the future.

Take a look at the eight tips below for a better understanding of how historic districts can impact the way communities function.

1. Historic districts help strengthen communities and attract people back to cities.

A growing number of people—led by the young, diverse, millennial generation—are choosing to live, work, and play in historic neighborhoods. According to the World Bank report The Economics of Uniqueness, “[heritage-related projects] contribute to urban livability, attracting talent, and provide an enabling environment for job creation.

2. Historic preservation districts help tell the story of our nation in all its complexity and diversity.

No one would argue that certain historic districts feature grand historic homes and affluent residents. But for every Georgetown or Beacon Hill, there are places like Eatonville, Florida or Detroit’s Corktown— modest communities that have been home to generations of working-class families. The history embedded in these communities is just as important, and just as worthy of our full preservation efforts.

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