How is Historic Preservation Compatible with Complete Communities?

Complete Communities are economically and environmentally sustainable. Preservation helps attain this ideal because it helps communities spur economic growth while also conserving natural resources. The State of Delaware has recognized the relationship between sustainability and preservation and highlighted its importance in many documents. Delaware’s Historic Preservation Plan provides guiding principles that can inform local governments in making land-use decisions or are updating and amending their comprehensive plans. Delaware Strategies for State Policies and Spending prioritizes state investments in areas that are most prepared for growth. Investment Level 1 areas, often dense and historic downtown cores, are ideally suited to direct state investment and management resources.

Promotes Infill Development

Complete Communities that practice infill development use both existing infrastructure and strive for redevelopment of vacant or underutilized land. Historic preservation makes this goal possible through ensuring that older buildings retain their character, cultural significance, and practical value to a community. For example, historic storefronts may continue to serve as important commercial space if preserved and maintained properly. State Strategies also promotes rehabilitation of aging housing stock as a way to improve housing options within existing communities.

Bolsters Economic Development

Complete Communities that value their collective heritage promote job growth and business diversity when they use historic preservation as a vehicle for economic development. Communities with character and charm attract both new residents and businesses. Rehabilitating older homes and properties encourages job growth, often more so than new construction. Heritage tourism, using historic structures and landscapes to attract and serve visitors, is another way that communities can encourage economic development and protect pieces of the past. State Strategies identifies heritage tourism as especially applicable to rural economic development. A community’s history is a resource that can be leveraged for economic benefit.

Conserves Natural, Cultural, and Historic Resources

Complete Communities that use historic preservation also conserve their natural environments. Adaptive reuse, or giving new use to older buildings, is responsible environmental management. Many jurisdictions have adopted adaptive reuse ordinances to incentivize or streamline the process of renovating existing buildings for new business uses. Restoring and preserving existing structures often provides more environmental benefits than new construction according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and its Preservation’s Green Lab program. Rehabilitation of historic places in Investment Level 1 areas minimizes sprawl and expansion into auto-oriented, low-density areas. Preserving a community’s history can also conserve its precious natural resources.

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