Historic buildings have a sense of place that can’t be replicated in modern buildings. There is a certain atmosphere and gravitas to a historic building that gives you the sense of a “time before” – a sense that both it and you are making history. But as much as we like to tell people this, for some, it will all come down to the cash. Luckily, though, there is a strong economic case for retaining heritage buildings. Let’s take a look at some case studies that demonstrate this.
The Enmore Theatre, Sydney
The Enmore Theatre, built in the 1920s, has a local heritage listing. Its Art Deco façade and ornate interior make it particularly distinctive in the streetscape of Newtown. The theatre hosts a variety of performances that draw in both locals and tourists. With over 100 performances a year, the theatre provides a must-visit destination within the local precinct. An independent economic study undertaken by Callum Morgan found that “the Enmore Theatre generates $39,021,000 worth of economic activity per year.”
Adelaide, known as the “City of Churches”, has a plethora of historic buildings and public gardens, and is notable as Australia’s first “free settlement” (not a convict settlement). An independent economic study of the value of heritage in Adelaide found that “the visitor economy built on heritage assets is worth some $400 million for the State and supports approximately 3,000 jobs annually” (SGS Economics and Planning).
Internationally, a study has demonstrated that the economic benefits of conserving cultural heritage surpass the costs. On the basis of heritage houses in the Netherlands, the study concluded that “conservation is a sound investment” and that “historical characteristics of buildings and their surroundings account for almost 15% of property values.”*
Retaining heritage buildings has strong economic benefits for the users of such buildings, but often also contributes to the use of the precinct. Many independent economic studies have provided strong and robust calculations of economic benefits to support this.
*Ruijgrok, E.C.M. (2006). The three economic values of cultural heritage: a case study in the Netherlands. Journal of Cultural Heritage 7(3):206–213. (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.culher.2006.07.002)