IHBC 2020 Yearbook

R E V I E W A N D A N A L Y S I S 35 HERITAGE CONSERVATION AND THE SUSTAINABILITY OF CITIES DONOVAN RYPKEMA IN 2015 the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Recognising that today more than half the population of the planet lives in cities, and that number will grow to two-thirds by 2050, cities had to be a priority in the international policy framework. While several of the 17 SDGs have targets that include city-related policies, the most directly applicable is SDG 11 which strives to: ‘Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.’ What does that mean? The UN has defined that as well; ‘Making cities sustainable means creating career and business opportunities, safe and affordable housing, and building resilient societies and economies.’ Where is that goal being met naturally, today? In heritage precincts around the world. Much research has been done internationally on the impacts of heritage conservation, most notably the Heritage Counts series prepared by Historic England since 2005 and more recently Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe organised and released by Europa Nostra. In the United States most of the studies over the last 30 years have been on the state-wide level. In the last four or five years, however, we have conducted historic preservation impact studies on the city level. Three things have made this possible: 1) the availability of ‘big data’; 2) the ability to reflect numerical data graphically through GIS; and 3) a recognition by local advocates that in the US it is at the local level where the only real protection of heritage resources takes place. These citywide studies have yielded additional evidence of the economic and other impacts of historic preservation. 1. Jobs and income The historic rehabilitation process is labour intensive, usually with a much larger share of the budget going to labour than is true in new construction. That means more positive local impact, measured in both number of jobs and amount of household income, for the same amount of total investment. In one of America’s most historic cities, Savannah, Georgia, $1 million invested in the rehabilitation of a historic building generates 1.2 more jobs and $62,000 more in income for Georgia citizens than the same amount spent on new construction. 2. Historic preservation and downtown revitalization City centres – in both large and small places – have seen a renaissance throughout North America over the last two decades. In the US, at least, nearly every sustained success story has had the rehabilitation of historic buildings as a central element in the revitalization strategy. For 40 years under the guidance of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, there has been a program called Main Street. This is an economic revitalisation program based on utilising each downtown’s historic buildings. There is no more cost-effective program of economic development of any kind, in the United States today. Since 1980, Main Street districts in more than 2000 communities have seen cumulative investment of $79 billion, 285,000 buildings rehabilitated, more than 640,000 net new jobs, and nearly 144,000 net new business. 3. Heritage tourism There are consistent findings in the US and elsewhere, that heritage visitors stay longer, spend more per day, and visit more places than do tourists in general. Further, in our studies we’ve found that heritage visitors spend more in each of the five categories of tourism expenditures – lodging; food and beverage; local transportation; retail purchases; and amusements and entertainment. San Antonio, Texas is home to the Alamo and five 18th century Spanish missions which were recently put on the UNESCOWorld Heritage List. About 47 per cent of San Antonio’s day visitors and 58 per cent of its overnight visitors fall in Historic buildings in downtown Savannah, Georgia, including SCAD, the Savannah College of Art and Design (Photo: Ken Lund, Flickr ref 5819753809)