Levin College of Law

Historic preservation enhances quality of life of Floridians, UF study finds

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Historic preservation enhances the quality of life of Floridians through economic and cultural contributions to an improved sense of place, according to a new study from the University of Florida.

“Determining a specific dollar value for quality of life is a challenging undertaking,” said project co-director Timothy McLendon, staff attorney at the Center for Governmental Responsibility at UF’s Levin College of Law, which conducted the study along with UF’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning. “Therefore, we offered local decision makers a number of options for protecting historically valuable assets that contribute to the community.”

Florida citizens also recognize the importance of historic preservation, according to a survey commissioned as part of the overall study. Based on surveys of more than 1,500 Floridians during November and December, 2005, and January, 2006, the most threatened historic resources in Florida include historic and scenic landscapes; old homes and neighborhoods; and old downtowns. Respondents, likewise, saw a need to preserve Florida’s historic resources for future generations, scenic reasons, and education. The survey was conducted by UF’s Bureau of Economic & Business Research as part of its monthly statewide consumer confidence survey.

The report includes models and tools available to further historic preservation in Florida and to measure the impact of historical structures, events and related activities on the enhancement of the quality of life in Florida.

Specifically, the use of community indicators is described as a tool for decision-makers to measure their success in improving the quality of life in their communities. Community indicators are bits of information that when combined, provide a picture of what is happening in a community. For historic preservation purposes, these may include items like the number or type of local ordinances; the amount of projects qualifying for historic tax credits or exemptions; changes in property values; numbers of historic districts; and visitors to and support for local historic museums. Other tools included in the report are preservation laws and policies, tourist-related tax revenues, and creative solutions to conflicts of gentrification, sustainability, and rehabilitation.

“We’re excited to have this wonderful study to confirm that along with the economic impacts that result from historic preservation, the quality of life is indeed improved as well,” said Caroline Tharpe Weiss, executive director of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, which provided key support for the study.

Sprinkled throughout the report are examples of model communities and projects that have succeeded in using the tools to enhance quality of life. DeFuniak Springs and Fernandina Beach are described as communities whose historic roots lure tourists and improve the economies of their regions. The St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum; the Fort Christmas Historical Park in Central Florida; and the Riley House museum near Tallahassee are provided as case studies of how history museums can be an important community resource.

Also described in the report are conservation districts in Tampa, Sarasota, and Zephyrhills which offer ways for local governments to balance historic preservation through protection, rehabilitation and revitalization, all contributing to a neighborhood’s culture. Other incentive programs, including tax credits and exemptions and grants have been key to preserving and improving Florida communities.

The 18-month study was funded with historic preservation grant assistance provided by the Bureau of Historic Preservation, Division of Historical Resources, Florida Department of State, assisted by the Florida Historical Commission. The study was a collaborative effort involving multiple UF partners: the Center for Governmental Responsibility; the Department of Urban and Regional Planning; the Center for Building Better Communities; the Graduate Program in Museum Studies; and the Center for Tourism Research and Development.

The Quality of Life study complements an earlier study on the Economic Impacts of Historic Preservation in Florida released in 2002. The full Quality of Life report copies may be obtained from the Division of Historical Resources, Florida Department of State (850) 245-6333.

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