The Georgia Trust



From data gathered over a five-year period (1992-1996), the study shows that rehabilitation of historic properties in Georgia created 7,550 jobs, $201 million in earnings, and $559 million in total economic impact on the state economy just from projects participating in federal and state programs.

Citing specific Georgia cities that have used historic preservation as a tool for economic growth, the study points out that historic preservation has enhanced property values in places such as Savannah, Rome, Athens and Tifton, where properties in designated historic districts appreciated more than similar properties in non-designated areas. In Savannah, neighborhoods within the National Register-listed Savannah Historic District appreciated by as much as 603 percent compared to only 15 percent growth for a neighborhood not listed in the National Register. The National Register lists buildings sites and districts that are of historical significance and are worthy of preservation.

The study also demonstrates what preservationists have been saying all along — that historic preservation is more than simply rehabilitating deteriorating buildings. It’s also a proven partner in developing local economies. Through the Georgia Main Street Program — which encourages the rehabilitation of historic downtown commercial buildings — nearly 2,500 projects totaling $348 million were undertaken over a five-year period to revitalize the downtown areas of 40 Main Street cities. In 1997 alone, the program spurred creation of over 1,300 new jobs and 478 new businesses.

Another economically powerful arm of historic preservation is heritage tourism. In 1996, visitors to Georgia spent over $453 million on history-related activities, more than they spent on general sight-seeing activities, evening entertainment or cultural events. Savannah, with $751 million in tourism spending in 1996, is Georgia’s best example of how a city can profit from heritage tourism. In Macon, preservation of in-town and downtown historic structures has been a key to the success of that city’s tourism industry. Attractions in Macon include museums, such as the Georgia Trust-owned Hay House, historic residences and a downtown entertainment district that features the Tubman African-American Museum and the newly restored Douglas Theatre. In 1996, the tourism industry in Macon generated an economic impact of $297 million, creating 7000 jobs. Augusta, Thomasville, Valdosta, Columbus and Atlanta are only a few of the other cities that have found preservation is key to attracting tourists. In Atlanta, the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, administered by the National Park Service, is one of the nation’s most prominent attractions.

According to the study, Georgia has been a leader in historic preservation activities, and its accomplishments are recognized across the nation. Together with partners at the federal and local levels of government, Georgia has used scarce public dollars through a variety of tax incentive programs to attract private investment in historic buildings. Together, federal and state programs have spurred $101 million in private investment in Georgia’s historic properties over five years. Projects include the following rehabilitation projects: the Rhodes-Haverty Building in downtown Atlanta, $6.5 million; the 1915 Upchurch Building in Thomasville, $1.5 million; the Americus Hardware Building, $1.5 million; the 1865 Elwood residence, Mariettas’s oldest home, $200,000; and the Oliver Dry Goods Building in Valdosta, $150,000.

The study makes clear that “historic preservation is an indispensable economic development tool for Georgia. One of the challenges facing Georgia in the future will be to keep its economy growing while mitigating some of the possible side effects of growth, such as urban sprawl and environmental harm. Historic preservation offers communities an alternative to sprawl and saves public dollars by avoiding the need to build the infrastructure necessary to service new developments.” As Georgia heads toward 2000, HPD, the Georgia Trust and preservationists across the state urge Georgia communities to continue their “profiting from the past.”
The study, Profiting From The Past, is a collaborative effort of the Historic Preservation Division, the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, the Georgia Main Street program, and numerous groups and individuals.

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