Why Historic Preservation Districts Are Crucial to Cities
All across America, from Cleveland and Buffalo to Portland and Pittsburgh, people from all walks of life—led by the young, diverse, millennial generation—are choosing to live, work, and play in historic neighborhoods. When asked why they moved to these areas, residents often talk about the desire to live somewhere distinctive, to be some place rather than no place. They want things like windows that open, exposed brick, and walkable communities, and continually use words like “charm” and “authenticity” to describe what they are looking for. In short, many Americans today want their homes and workplaces to be unique and distinctive—exactly the kind of distinctiveness, character, and sense of place that historic preservation districts provide.
Indeed, historic preservation districts provide benefits to people, whether or not they actually own a home in them. In New York’s Lower East Side, for example, millions of people visit annually to experience a remarkably intact 19th century tenement neighborhood. In Chicago, the annual Historic Pullman Community house tour is among the most popular residential house tours in Illinois, providing a glimpse into the lives of workers in George Pullman’s planned community. These places and thousands of others—from the Milwaukee Avenue Historic District in Minneapolis, to the Harvard-Belmont Historic District in Seattle—provide more than just housing for current residents. They also serve as living history lessons, and tangible reminders of a city’s past. They connect us across time to those who came before us.