Historic Neighborhoods of Philadelphia Named a National Treasure by National Trust for Historic Preservation
In recognition of the significance of a city that has been called a ‘veritable almanac of American history,’ the historic neighborhoods of Philadelphia were today named a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Announced in partnership with the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia and Mayor Jim Kenney, the National Trust’s designation signifies the organization’s long-term commitment to helping the ‘City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection’ fully integrate historic preservation tools into the its planning and development approach while ensuring the city’s rich and distinctive neighborhoods remain key building blocks for future development.
“From the cobblestone charm of Old City to the industrial heritage of Kensington, from the legacy of freedom in Germantown to the arts scene of Manayunk, Philadelphia provides residents, businesses, and visitors with a tapestry of unique and varied neighborhoods—each with its own identity, history, and preservation opportunities,” said Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “We are delighted Philadelphia is benefiting from a welcome resurgence, and its historic character is undoubtedly helping drive this trend, but we must ensure that what makes Philly’s neighborhoods so appealing remains intact, to benefit today’s residents and to fuel tomorrow’s growth.”
For the first time in decades, Philadelphia is experiencing a sustained population boom, fueled in part by the allure of its centuries-old red brick rowhouses, cobbled alleyways, and colorful open-air markets. Yet much of the fabric that represents the city’s rich and multi-layered history is currently unprotected by preservation regulations or incentives, leaving thousands of Philadelphia’s iconic historic places threatened by demolition pressure or incompatible new construction. Still other areas of the city continue to struggle with vacant buildings and declining population.
“Philadelphia has thousands of historic resources worthy of protection,” said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. “The challenge facing us is how do we balance the need for that preservation while also encouraging the growth and development we need to combat our 26 percent poverty rate. The support of the National Trust will help us to meet that challenge.”
In partnership with Mayor Kenney’s Historic Preservation Task Force, which is supported by the William Penn Foundation, the National Trust will seek to demonstrate how historic preservation planning, incentives, regulations, and public participation can combine to create opportunities for residents at all income levels.
The National Trust’s seven decades of experience and research in cities demonstrates that the rehabilitation and reuse of older and historic buildings is a key to revitalizing urban neighborhoods for the benefit of residents. Building on this, the Trust recently launched an initiative called ReUrbanism that emphasizes the many ways that creatively reusing older buildings can benefit communities. For example, recent research by the Trust’s Preservation Green Lab reveals that the most vibrant and diverse neighborhoods contain a mix of older, small-scale buildings of varying ages. These areas tend to have more small, local (non-chain), and women- and minority-owned businesses, more diversity in housing types and costs, and more activity at all times of the day.
“We are grateful and excited for the Kenney administration’s steps toward exploring the power of historic preservation as an economic development strategy,” said Paul Steinke, executive director of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia. “Time and time again, both here and in cities across the United States, preservation has been proven to promote job creation and economic opportunity while retaining what makes a place unique and worth saving.”
About National Treasures
The National Trust for Historic Preservation mobilizes its more than 60 years of expertise and resources to protect a growing portfolio of National Treasures that are threatened, including buildings, neighborhoods, communities, and landscapes that stand at risk across the country. Our National Treasures program demonstrates the value of preservation by taking direct action to protect these places and promote their history and significance. National Treasure designation unlocks the Trust’s full complement of organizational resources—including research, expertise, community outreach, advocacy tools, and communications channels.