Why Preservation Matters

Historic preservation is not just about saving old buildings.

It is also the practice of preserving and revitalizing neighborhoods and entire communities – bringing people together and preserving local stories and culture. It has demonstrated its ability to replace urban decay with a sense of community pride. It has also a sound economic policy, proven to be have a positive impact on the local economy as well as the environment.

Staunton is a living, breathing community …

In Staunton, residential and commercial preservation projects continue to strengthening surrounding neighborhoods and build a vibrant downtown core. More people living and working downtown 24/7 ensures a healthy, vibrant historic district.

Why is Preservation Important?


Between 1997 and 2020, the total investment in the Staunton area from Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit projects has been over $95,627,363.23.  Expenses eligible for the program are included in this figure.  It does not include additional non-eligible costs invested in projects.

Clearly, Staunton’s rehabilitation activity indicates that historic building reuse certainly does work and is serious development.

Rehabilitation of existing buildings provides more jobs and injects more money into the local economy – yes – money that stays in this local economy – than any other form of public investment or construction – yes – including construction of new buildings.

“. . . historic preservation is good for the economy. In the last 15 years, dozens of studies have been conducted throughout the United States, by different analysts, using different methodologies. But the results of those studies are remarkably consistent — historic preservation is good for the local economy. From this large and growing body of research, the positive impact of historic preservation on the economy has been documented in six broad areas: 1) jobs, 2) property values, 3) heritage tourism, 4) environmental impact, 5) social impact, and 6) downtown revitalization.” — Measuring the Economics of Preservation: Recent Findings, Prepared for the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation by PlaceEconomics, June, 2011. Read more.

More Local Jobs – Better Local Investment – Environmentally Sustainable

Independent studies conducted by organization including Preservation Virginia and the VCU Center for Urban and Regional Development, and Rutgers University clearly indicate that historic rehabilitation provides more local skilled jobs and regional reinvestment than new construction. The Greenest Building Study by the National Trust for Historic Preservation clearly demonstrates beyond doubt that reuse of existing buildings is by far better for the environment and provides sustainable and maintainable buildings for the future.

A report from Rutgers confirms earlier findings that historic rehabilitation work not only creates more higher-paying jobs than new construction, but more jobs overall. Of the 2.7 million jobs created by federal historic tax credit investments over the life of the program (1978 and 2018), 129,000 alone were generated in 2018.

The report also shows that historic rehabilitation outperforms many other traditional stimulus investments. For instance, $1 million invested in historic rehabilitation has a greater economic impact in terms of jobs, income, and federal, state, and local taxes generated than a similar investment in highway construction, machinery manufacturing, agriculture, and telecommunication.

The report provides case studies indicating that three-quarters of the economic impacts of historic rehabilitation stays in the same local communities and states where the projects are located. This relatively high retention rate reflects the fact that labor and materials are obtained locally. (Annual Report on the Economic Impact of the Federal Historic Tax Credit for Fiscal Year 2019)

Research conducted by PlaceEconomics found similar impacts at the state level, citing the labor-intensive process of historic rehab in which between 60 and 70 percent of the total costs go toward labor — skilled carpenters, electricians, plumbers, sheet metal workers, painters, and other tradespeople. (The Missing Key: A Study of the Impact and Potential of the Pennsylvania State Historic Tax Credit)


These topics are from a report produced by the Preservation Green Lab of the National Trust for Historic Preservation: The Greenest Building One Pager.

Reuse Matters.

Building reuse typically offers greater environmental savings than demolition and new construction. It can take between 10 to 80 years for a new energy efficient building to overcome, through efficient operations, the climate change impacts created by its construction. The study finds that the majority of building types in different climates will take between 20-30 years to compensate for the initial carbon impacts from construction.

Scale Matters.

Collectively, building reuse and retrofits substantially reduce climate change impacts. Retrofitting, rather than demolishing and replacing, just 1% of the city of Portland’s office buildings and single family homes over the next ten years would help to meet 15% of their county’s total CO2 reduction targets over the next decade.

Design Matters.

The environmental benefits of reuse are maximized by minimizing the input of new construction materials. Rehabilitation projects that require many new materials can reduce or even negate the benefits of reuse.

The Bottom Line

Reusing existing buildings is good for the economy, the community and the environment. At a time when our country’s foreclosure and unemployment rates remain high, communities would be wise to reinvest in their existing building stock. Historic rehabilitation has a thirty-two year track record of creating 2 million jobs and generating $90 billion in private investment. Studies show residential rehabilitation creates 50% more jobs than new construction.

Preservation Virginia:  Economic Impact of Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit Programs in Virginia