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Rypkema, Donovan. The Economics of Historic Preservation: A Community Leader’s Guide. Washington, D.C.: The National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1994 (131 pp.). Rypkema provides a wonderfully readable and practical guide for historic preservation activists who need ammunition to keep city councils and developers from ripping down old structures. He notes in the beginning of the book that most activists get involved because they love old buildings, admire their beauty, and care about the sense of community they provide, but that people who make the decisions (elected officials, city staffs) usually could care less about these issues. They operate in the world of money and economics, and so Rypkema offers a response to them, i.e., there are economic incentives to saving historic properties. He offers 100 reasons, from it being more expensive to tear down a building than rehabilitate it, to the fact that historic neighborhoods attract businesses and well-paid residents, to the ways in which historic buildings contribute to property values. The book is filled with quotes from other preservationists, elected officials, scholars, and city employees who have studied the economics of historic preservation, and there are many case studies supporting each of Rypkema’s 100 points. At the end of the book, he also offers useful arguments that activists can use in any of 24 different scenarios, such as when the city council is deciding whether to tear down a historic structure to create a parking lot that will generate funds. He shows in this and other examples how the short-term fix (demolition) is usually more costly than preservation, and in most cases he also offers political strategies. His is not just a guide about buildings, however, because Rypkema also touches on issues like public participation, creating a community conscience and sense of place, combating sprawl, and using a region’s distinctive character to spur tourism. The book is divided into 11 chapters that examine the economic benefits of preserving and using old buildings for different reasons – such as for tourism, downtown revitalization, and public policy. There is much repetition throughout the book, and many of the arguments start to sound very much alike, but some of the points do fit within more than one strategy. One wishes that most city council members and other elected officials would read this book before deciding that "it’s too expensive" to maintain that old building downtown. Rypkema’s book belongs on the bookshelf of anyone concerned about community.


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