Track 4: Diversity, Population Change, and Gentrification in the Preservation Dialogue
Co-authors: Cherie-Nicole Leo and Alberto Sanchez Sanchez
The processes involved in designating historic properties have become increasingly participatory over the past quarter century, allowing more diverse publics to ascribe value to and preserve places. However, it is unclear whether such processes can ensure just and inclusive engagement and outcomes for the populations of historic districts post-designation and for other publics with a stake in preservation’s effects. This research examined the public benefits that preservation in the United States is intended to achieve through a comparative review of municipal-level legislation across all 50 states, as well as contemporary advocacy research efforts to support professional narratives about preservation's benefits. It further explored how regulatory criteria address these public policy aims and how/if these aims are shared by communities, specifically through a survey in New York City. In exploring how preservation success is defined through public policy, professional and regulatory practice, and the public eye, this research found disparate perceptions about the function of heritage designation in society. Biases toward material and aesthetic concerns on the part of advocates, practitioners, and review agencies conflict with the preservation rationales that are promoted as part of a justification of public investment. These differences influence decision-making in the field that may contribute to exclusionary practices regarding how heritage values are ascribed and by whom, and how the outcomes of preservation may not serve all publics. Confronting these challenges requires a new era of self-examination by the preservation field to shift policy and practice toward inclusion.