The Economic Power of Preservation
David. J. Brown
In light of President Barack Obama's recent campaign speech on the economy in Hampton Roads, I'd like to highlight the important opportunity for creating jobs and stimulating the local economy that exists in the region - the historic rehabilitation and reuse of Fort Monroe in Hampton.
Historic preservation is a proven job-creation and revitalization strategy. Proof abounds in the commonwealth.
The Chamberlin Hotel, now The Chamberlin at Fort Monroe, and the Carpenter Theatre, now Richmond CenterStage, stand as shining examples of preservation's power, aided by the use of federal historic tax credits, to drive revitalization in Virginia.
These projects are just two of the more than 850 historic tax credit projects in the state since 2001 that have helped generate 35,000 jobs, $1.6 billion in gross state product and $113 million in state and local taxes.
The renewal of Virginia's historic hotels, mills, theaters and industrial buildings not only generates jobs, but spurs community revitalization and protects our history.
Historic preservation is a true economic engine. Researchers have found that $1 million invested in historic rehabilitation produces more jobs, income and state and local taxes than $1 million invested in new construction, highway construction, machinery manufacturing, agriculture or telecommunications.
This bears repeating: Preservation beats out new construction in creating jobs - more and better-paying ones, and ones that can't be outsourced.
This message is especially relevant to the conversations concerning the reuse of one of our nation's most significant historic sites, Fort Monroe, which the president wisely designated a national monument last fall.
This place literally bookends the slavery experience in America: In 1619, the first enslaved Africans in the New World landed at what is now Fort Monroe, and in 1861, the fort witnessed the beginnings of the Civil War-era freedom movement.
The site consists of 180 historic buildings that, given preservation's role as an economic engine, should be the building blocks of a new future for Fort Monroe.
So while the future of Fort Monroe is being decided, we urge the stewards of this national treasure, both at the state (the Fort Monroe Authority) and the federal level (the National Park Service), to recognize the important role that our historic resources play in strengthening our economies. We urge them to seize the tremendous opportunity at Fort Monroe to preserve our history and revitalize our communities.
David J. Brown is executive vice president and chief preservation officer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.