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Historic preservation contributes $6 billion annually to Florida economy, UF Law study shows



By Matt Walker
Senior Writer

Historic preservation activities in Florida contribute more than $6 billion annually to the state's economy, accounting for more than 110,000 jobs, according to a two-year study by the Center for Governmental Responsibility (CGR) at the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

UF researchers, partnering with the Center for Urban Policy Research at Rutgers University, examined activities that included rehabilitation of historic buildings, heritage tourism, state historic preservation grants, operations of history museums and Florida Main Street Programs. The study was funded by the Bureau of Historic Preservation, Division of Historical Resources in the Florida Department of State. It updated a similar study completed in 2002.

"Despite negative events of significance to the international economy since our earlier study, we found that historic preservation activities continue to make a significant positive contribution during these tough economic times," said Timothy McLendon, CGR staff attorney and lead researcher on the project. He cited such events as the impacts of the World Trade Center bombings on travel, tourism and the international economy; the economic meltdown of world banking and financial markets, affecting housing, real estate and construction; the international recession; economic struggles of state and local governments; and unemployment trends.

Using a formula developed by Rutgers economists David Listokin and Michael Lahr, the study found that in-state benefits from investment in historic preservation included: 111,509 jobs; $2.9 billion in income; $4.2 billion in gross state product; $1.38 billion in taxes; and $3.77 billion in in-state wealth.

The overall findings of the study were:

1. Historic preservation creates jobs in Florida and in the United States. Of the more than 110,000 jobs created in Florida, nearly half were in the retail sector and a quarter were in the services sector. Another 20,000 jobs were created in the U.S., outside of Florida.

2. Historic preservation contributes to state, local and federal tax collections.

3. Historic preservation creates in-state wealth, and $2.9 billion in income to Florida residents.

4. Rehabilitation of historic properties in Florida is a multi-billion-dollar business. More than $2 billion was spent rehabilitating existing residential and non-residential historic Florida property in 2007-08.

5. Florida visitors spend billions visiting historic sites. Heritage tourists in Florida spent an estimated $4.13 billion in 2007-08.

6. Investments through the Florida Main Street Program are revitalizing historic downtowns and original commercial corridors, thus bringing citizens, visitors and dollars back to the heart of communities throughout the state. Florida Main Street investment output was roughly $409.6 million in construction and retail job benefits in 2007-08.

7. History museums attract millions of tourists visiting Florida. Approximately 13 million people (Floridians and out-of-state tourists) visited a history museum in the state.

8. Florida's Historic Preservation Grants program supports rehabilitation and tourism, thus enriching the state's economy. Researchers visited sites throughout Florida that were among the recipients of a total of more than $193.8 million in state grant funds between 1996 and 2008.

9. Historic designation does not depress property values and may help maintain value. Researchers, working with UF's Geoplan Center, examined more than 20,000 parcels of single family residential property in communities throughout Florida, including Gainesville, Jacksonville, Ocala, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Lakeland, West Palm Beach, Lake Worth and Tallahassee from 2001-09. The study found that in 12 of 18 cases studied for 2001-09, historic district properties showed greater increases in property values than comparable property in non-historic neighborhoods. For the period from 2006-09, historic districts tended to maintain their values better than the non-historic neighborhoods.

Florida sites featured in the study are: South Beach in Miami Beach; El Jardin Mansion at Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart, Miami; Archbold Biological Station, Lake Placid; Historic Masonic Lodge #36 A.F. & A.M., Daytona Beach; Old City Hall, Chipley; Ximenez-Fatio House Museum, St. Augustine; Tarpon Springs; Ponce Inlet Lighthouse & Museum; Crooked River Lighthouse, Carrabelle; Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park, Baker County; Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park, Leon County; Ray Charles Boyhood Home, Greenville; Okeechobee Main Street; Lincoln Park Main Street, Fort Pierce; Main Street Punta Gorda; Main Street Wauchula; Dade City Main Street; Panama City Main Street; Main Street Starke; Newberry Main Street; Pensacola Historical Society & Museum, Historic Pensacola Village; Historical Society of Palm Beach County, West Palm Beach; The Holocaust Museum of Southwest Florida, Naples; Immokalee Pioneer Museum at Roberts Ranch; Charlotte County History Center, Punta Gorda; Mandarin Museum and Historical Society; Old Firehouse No. 3, Key West; Bing Rooming House, Plant City; Historic Derby Street Chapel, Cocoa; Vietnam War Patrol Torpedo Fast Boat, PTF3, DeLand; and Flagler College Art Building, St. Augustine.

The research findings are included in a 52-page executive summary and detailed in an extensive technical document that accompanies the summary. Both will be available soon at CGR's website.

Pictured above: The Hays-Hood House, built in 1910, was restored by the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation as its new headquarters in 2004 in Tallahassee. (Photo courtesy of State Library and Archives of Florida)