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The architect should be regarded as a kind of physical historian.
Vincent Scully

Our Programs: Place


Check the Stats: Sense of Place

By no means complete, below are a few facts that illustrate how a healthy sense of place contributes to the community. See the Readings for other examples and best practices.

Challenges To Creating a Sense of Place

  1. The U.S. has lost 95% of old-growth forests, 55% of wetlands, 99% of prairies.

  2. Urban sprawl in the U.S. consumes 160 acres of undeveloped land every hour.

  3. More than 25% of urban land is devoted to auto transportation and parking, and every year in America we pave an area the size of Delaware.

  4. The classic American downtown, with mixed-use structures built up to the sidewalk, is illegal today in most communities.

  5. More than 54 million Americans live in communities that do not meet federal air quality standards. The American Lung Association puts the cost of bad air at $50 billion a year.

Findings: The Economics of the Environment

  1. A Bank of America study shows that states with the strongest environmental policies also have the healthiest economies.

  2. Money magazine’s readers rate clean air and water above all other factors when deciding where to live (even over crime).

  3. A National Association of Home Builders study says the environment is the most important factor affecting a home’s value.

  4. New York City spent $1.5 billion to buy and preserve open space to filter water naturally, rather than spend $6-8 billion on a new filtration plant. More than 140 other cities are studying the preservation tactic.

  5. When residents of Napa, California, taxed themselves to return their river to its natural state, property values downtown immediately rose 20% and previously boarded-up businesses reopened.

  6. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that properly positioned trees can save 25% on household energy costs. Similarly, American Farms estimates that urban trees provide $4 billion in energy savings annually.

Findings: Historic Preservation Saves Money

  1. In West Virginia, $1,000,000 invested in historic rehabilitation created 20 more jobs than $1,000,000 spent on mining.

  2. Life expectancies for new buildings average 30-40 years, considerably less than the typical rehabilitated building; and rehab is usually 9-12% less than building new.

  3. A Galveston, Texas study showed that property values in restored historic districts rose 440% between 1975 and 1991, while the remainder of the city experienced an 80% increase.

  4. For each dollar spent on historic preservation in Rhode Island, the state received $1.69 in new tax revenue.

  5. Of the 20 American towns with the best economic performances, 15 operate very strong historic preservation programs.

Findings: How We Live

  1. When Boston built its huge government mall it failed because it supplanted a historic district but did not replace it with anything people cared about. Smaller historic development almost always outperforms large-scale urban "projects."

  2. Nine out of 10 people say "quality of life" is an important factor in deciding whether to accept a job – even more significant than base pay.

  3. In many cities vacant land has been converted to urban gardens – saving residents money on meals, beautifying the neighborhood, and providing organic food. Further, Philadelphia saw a 90% drop in crime as a result of its volunteer gardening program.

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