School of Architecture and Planning

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The Economics of Heritage Development

Executive summary

Buffalo's Opportunity

The Idea of Heritage Development

Urban Design and Heritage Development

Exhibit of Historic Views

Heritage Development
- a Case Study

Group Discussion Sessions

A Summary of the Conversation

Content Analysis
(coming soon)


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Iím committed as a preservationist to believe thatís why itís important to keep enough sites and to keep enough historic fabric so we donít lose that sense of identity and continuity with the past. But that identity, I believe, has to be real. I donít think it should be fabricated because human experience is based on real things and real places.

Now, in talking about this yesterday, Elaine and I were talking about Colonial Williamsburg and reconstruction. Elaine and Tom Gallaher and ERA are working on a project now in the state of Alabama and the state historical commission there owns 18 sites all over the state that range from prehistoric sites, Indian mounds, pre-white historic sites I should say, to early French settlements and fortresses to plantations, all the way through major civil rights locations. The bus station in Montgomery that was the end of the Selma-Montgomery march, the state capitol where Jefferson Davis was sworn in and Martin Luther King spoke. So, this is an enormous, enormous story to be told there.

Weíre working on these 18 sites and one of the sites is considering reconstruction of buildings that were there, or things inspired by buildings that were once there, and weíve had an on-going discussion about whether thatís the right thing to do. The public wants authenticity. But itís a slippery slope, in my experience, to reconstruct. When weíre talking about Colonial Williamsburg, the things that Colonial Williamsburg did 40, 50, 60 years ago, Iím not sure we could get away with today because it isnít exactly right. But there also is a fine line of saying, well, none of it matters, weíre just going to interpret a story and hope everybody will get it, hope everybody will understand.

Interpretation of history and explanation of history has to be handled very, very carefully because itís teaching. If itís not that continuity and itís not the memory that we have, and itís not the real experience that took place, then weíve lost the essential message. So, itís about finding a very careful balance between what is real and authentic and in place and what is interpretive and explanatory and educational. It isnít all one way or all the other, in my experience.

There is a market application of this in something I like to call the ďmemory of the market.Ē We talk about this a lot with downtown revitalization because all across the country downtown areas have lost the traditional mom and pop retailers whoíve moved to suburban locations. Theyíve been put out of business by national chains. They canít compete on price or buying volume and all that, and yet ó and this is something that we capitalized on and used heavily, because itís real, in the Main Street program ó the market remembers when downtown was a different kind of place. It doesnít mean it can be identically that way again, but we all carry a positive memory, the ďmemory of the market,Ē of what a place was like before. And we have a sentimental loyalty to wanting it to be that way again that can translate into expenditures. We vote with our dollars and choose where to spend.

So, if the right characteristics are there, the right mix of stores and businesses, the activities that are tailored to the time and place that we want to spend time, it can work. A lot of downtowns close down at night ó thatís when most people are not working. This is not a hard problem to solve. You have to have the places people want to go at the time theyíre available. So there is some tweaking that has to happen but the ďmemory of the marketĒ does have a market value and a financial implication. And then finally ó this sounds like a political stump speech, which I guess is okay for primary day ó there is a really strong place for the family. This is something else we used in a lot of site development and attraction development. If you can get the children to come down, the parents come, too. If the habit is formed in coming to a place and a positive experience is offered there, they will come back.

So, not unlike what the cigarette manufacturers were trying to do with Joe Camel, to get the attention of children and teenagers and get them to participate in a particular kind of experience, we need to do the same thing with historic sites and cultural sites so they get in the habit of doing it. As music programs and art programs are in discussion or cut out of school budgets, somebodyís going to have to fill that gap or itís going to be lost. Youíve got to build that habit. So, part of the values that benefit from doing this right, is to create a place for families to come together as well.

Alright, what are some of the market trends that grow out of both the financial and the behavioral values that we just talked about? Letís talk about money. In 1997, the average household in the United States spent $1,259 on transportation, food and beverage, lodging and entertainment as part of a trip. That data is three years old now. The travel industry association is redoing its survey. It has just come out. I donít have the data yet. But thatís nothing to sneeze at. Thatís the money that someone has saved up and has come here to offer to you if you can give them a good experience in exchange for it.

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