Statewide Study Says Historic Preservation is Major Economic Driver

Historic preservation pays dividends for Rhode Island’s economy, its environment and its quality of life, according to a statewide study commissioned by The Preservation Society of Newport County and Preserve Rhode Island. The report by nationally-recognized economist Donovan Rypkema of PlaceEconomics is the first to analyze Rhode Island’s preservation sector on four main themes: Heritage Tourism, Historic Tax Credits, Quality of Life, and Sustainability.

“What we found is Rhode Island’s historic cities, towns, and neighborhoods attract visitors, residents, businesses, and investment,” said Rypkema. “The assets of past centuries are the base of a 21st century economy and are often locations of choice for today’s Rhode Islanders.”

Among the key findings:

  • RI welcomes 9.8 million heritage visitors annually, who add nearly $1.4 billion to the state’s economy.
  • Spending by heritage visitors creates 19,000 direct jobs, and another 7,000 indirect jobs
  • Since 2001, 326 historic buildings have been rehabilitated in 26 of the state’s 39 communities
    using state historic tax credits.
  • Every dollar the state invests in a tax credit project generates $10.53 in economic activity.
  • 56% of Rhode Island’s population growth since 2000 has occurred within local historic districts,
    which comprise only 1% of the state’s land area.
  • Preservation is green: the reuse of one 40,000 square foot historic building is equivalent to taking
    24-28 cars off the road and preserving 4.2 acres of greenfield land.

“In 1956, Preservation Society founder Katherine Warren said Historic preservation is an economic asset as well as an aesthetic one. This report proves how visionary she really was,” said Preservation Society CEO & Executive Director Trudy Coxe. “Historic preservation has become an important economic driver for the state and investing in our historic resources is a direct investment in our future.”

“The study is the first of its kind here in Rhode Island, taking a comprehensive look at the diverse ways in which our lives are positively impacted by historic preservation,” commented Preserve Rhode Island’s Executive Director Valerie Talmage. “It is exciting that quantifiable results reinforce what members of the preservation community have seen anecdotally for many years.”

Funding for the study was provided by the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Preservation Society of Newport County, Rhode Island, is a non-profit organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and dedicated to preserving and interpreting the area’s historic architecture, landscapes, decorative arts and social history. Its 11 historic properties– seven of them National Historic Landmarks– span more than 250 years of American architectural and social development.

Preserve Rhode Island is the only statewide non-profit working to protect historic places and landscapes across the state through advocacy, stewardship and preservation programs. Preserve Rhode Island owns several historic properties, including Lippitt House Museum which is a National Historic Landmark.

PlaceEconomics is a private sector firm with over thirty years of experience in the thorough and robust analysis of the economic impacts of historic preservation. PlaceEconomics conducts studies, surveys, and workshops in cities and states across the country that are addressing issues of downtown, neighborhood, and commercial district revitalization and the reuse of historic buildings. The firm specializes in quality, defensible research, and presents findings clearly and effectively in formats that can be understood by academics, economists, mayors, city council members, property owners, and local stakeholders alike.

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