National Trust submits recommendations to Philly task force

December 13, 2018 by Erica Stewart

Specific Steps to Promote Historic Rehab and Reuse in Philadelphia

In May 2017, The National Trust was tapped to serve as a Technical Advisor and member of the Mayor Kenney’s Historic Preservation Task Force. In this role, we were asked to provide recommendations on how the City could better protect its wealth of historic neighborhoods and incentivize building reuse and rehabilitation amid a population boom and persistent pockets of disinvestment.

Drawing on six months of research and decades of expertise, our staff experts conveyed to the task force that there is no “silver bullet” policy or innovation for significantly improving historic preservation—an established public good—in Philadelphia. Rather, preservation of its rich heritage will be achieved through a combination of more robust community engagement and constituency building, improved historic resource survey information, and more effective incentive programs within a supportive, tailored regulatory environment.

Our specific recommendations include:

  • Establishing a tailored approach to conserving and reusing Philadelphia’s historic assets. This would enable communities to adopt different types of protection strategies and incentives to preserve neighborhood character and support investment in building maintenance and reuse.
  • Strengthening incentives to support historic property owners. These could include establishing new funds, grants, technical assistance programs, and tax credits to draw more resources to the rehab and reuse of Philadelphia’s older and historic buildings.
  • Adopting a Demolition Review Ordinance. This is a tool designed to avoid the unnecessary loss of undesignated but valued historic buildings as identified by a historic resource survey and public input.
  • Launching and sustaining a strategic survey of historic resources. An efficient, low-cost inventory management system that compiles both existing survey data and new information into a comprehensive database is essential to Philadelphia’s preservation infrastructure.
  • Adequately funding the Philadelphia Historic Commission. The PHC has long suffered from insufficient funding and staff. The City must consider ways to rectify this, to enable PHC’s administration of existing historic resources, management of new nominations, execution of a tailored regulatory approach, and more effective public outreach.

Our research and recommendations are reflected throughout the task force’s draft of its final recommendations report, as presented at its final public meeting on Thursday, December 13th. The public will now have until January 14th to provide comment on the report by emailing preservation@phila.gov.

Once all of the public comments have been received, the final report and recommendations will be presented to the Mayor and City Council in early 2019.

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