A Valuation of Historic District Designation in Atlanta

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Hagood, Chelsea
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It is a well-established notion that historic district designation results in increased property values (Rypkema, 2005). Many cities have employed these historic preservation policies in an effort to catalyze inner-city redevelopment efforts. It is difficult, however, to assume that all geographies will ascribe the same monetary value to historic preservation, especially across socioeconomic barriers. Historic and cultural resources are prized in most communities for their authentic representation of a neighborhood’s past. This authentic representation can be described as a way to promote the true story of an area, or the distinctive and tangible experience of a place that is supported by historical fact (Wiles, 2007). This often refers to a building or place’s material or architectural integrity, but authenticity can also be described as a social construct concerned with intangible traditions just as much, if not more than the preservation of the original architecture. Thus, the historic authenticity of the neighborhood is lessened if the community members that share connections with these historic resources are displaced due to the rising property values simultaneously touted as a policy benefit. When dealing with historic districts and neighborhoods it is especially important to recognize the community members and residents themselves as sources of historical authenticity, especially if the historical significance associated with the neighborhood is directly related to the people who have lived there. Despite the common misconception that historic districts are often located within wealthy homogenous neighborhoods, given Atlanta’s rich civil rights history, several of the City’s historic districts are located in historically low-income African American neighborhoods, and thus may be susceptible to displacement resulting from increased property values.
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