Sunday, November 09, 2008

Historic Preservation Pays... and Pays Big Time

Spotlight on this morning's Kirk Huffaker op-ed piece

By Curmudgeon

There's more in this morning's paper worth reading than the several stories about the Wildcats clinching the Big Sky Conference title. Kirk Huffaker, Executive Director of the Utah Heritage Foundation has a lengthy op-ed piece entitled "Stick With Historic Preservation to Net More Than Financial Gain."

That's only partially an accurate headline, since Huffaker also notes in his piece that historic preservation pays... and pays big time... for communities that take it seriously. For example, he notes, according to a study by the Utah Department of Community and Economic Development, every dollar invested in historic rehab projects returns to the community that invested it $35 in additional economic benefits and $4.16 in increased tax revenues.

The op-ed piece goes on to discuss, specifically, the Windsor Hotel matter and the Administration's attempt to raise building height limits throughout Historic 25th Street.

Well worth a read.


What will it costs us said...

On development of the 12th and Wall for a maybe market Winco since they won't comment, why don't they use the old Fred Meyer across the street. Why should we pony up $1M in public money to help clean up private property when we have a parking lot and building already in place across the street. Shouldn't property owners be responseable for any contaminated soil that they knew was on their property when they purchased the land. If the numbers are true and he bought it for $250K years ago and now has sold it for $4M, seems like he could pay for any cleanup.

Is this another developer looking for public money since the banks have closed to doors to new lending. Has a secret deal been worked out with Ogden to help fund this folly.

35 to 1 said...

35 to 1 rate of return? That's ridiculous. Sounds like an an Amway salesman.

If we could get that kind of return, then by investing $1 billion every year in historic preservation we could double per student spending from the increased tax revenues.

Just because the 35 to 1 ratio is found on a government website doesn't mean it's accurate.

Sheesh. Some people will believe just about anything.

The said...

The 35 to 1 argument is probably the same as the RDA "logic". RDAs are used to subsidize activity that will occur in the area anyway. Of course, we know that subsidizing certain economic activities such as retail and residences does not increase economic growth but simply shifts it from once place to another.

While historic preservation is a worthy goal, let's not overstate the economic benefits.

disgusted said...

the tax revenue increase number looks more realistic and more applicable.

fireman joe said...

Bob-I would believe those figures before I would believe anything that comes out of your buddy Matt's mouth.

Curmudgeon said...

Interesting to me that folks are willing to dismiss the number without, apparently, having read the report and the numbers it is based on.

Just to be clear, it did not report a rate of return of 35 to 1, meaning invest a dollar and get $35 back in profit. What it was discussing is the multiplier effect applied to dollars spent locally... how much each dollar spent locally ends up "multiplying" within the community as the business it is spent on in turn spends it, and so on and so on. Or within a nation for that matter. You will see a similar multiplier effect discussed soon if Congress takes up an infrastructure stimulus package. Such numbers are not mythical. There is much research, and sound research, behind them.

The same calculations can be done, and often are, for other activities, like arts programing and expenditures, which also have a multiplier impact on communities and generally, if wisely spent, generate within a community multiples of the initial amount allocated.

Ogden Dem said...

35 to 1 said - addressed per pupil spending. May I share some information on public education in Ogden. The RDA 'financed' (I guess that is the right word) the old mall site which meant that absolutely no tax dollars went to the Ogden School District for the 20 years it was in existence. Then the site sat empty for four years - again no tax support for public ed. The RDA financed the Junction which means for the next 20 years no tax dollars will go to the Ogden School District.
I for one will contact every city council member to express my opinion any time they attempt to fund any RDA project.
Sorry I know this isn't exactly the main point of the article, but I am frustrated.

Curmudgeon said...


The report dealing with economic impacts of historic rehab projects is a public document. You can look it up if you want to see the numbers and basis for the conclusions. Because Ogden RDA projections have not worked out with regard to the old mall and mall site does not mean every report from a government source is necessarily unreliable. We have a history in Utah to work with, in re: historic preservation and the economic consequences, and that history permits some reasonable conclusions to be drawn.

And there have been successful RDA projects. I wouldn't throw the baby out with the bath water and condemn all RDA projects imply because they are RDA projects. There are occasions in which the RDA approach makes sense and can yield good results. Good judgment and prudence have to apply, and I'd be the first to agree, it hasn't always. I mean, we once had a mayor who thought the city ought to sell off its largest and most popular park to a real estate developer in order to raise just part of something well north of 40 million dollars needed to build a flatland gondola ride for touists from downtown to WSU. To quote Gov. Palin, "I kid you not!"

But because Ogden has made some bad judgments and had some truly loopy projects proposed by people in high office does not necessarily mean all RDA projects are bad ideas and should never be undertaken.

Bill C. said...

My first recollection of RDA as a tool used by Ogden City was 25th st. It was late 70's early 80's. about 25 years ago. I believe it's been a success seeing that it seems to be the coveted location in Ogden to do business, at least the only area that appears to have significant life right now.
Why should we allow any short term speculative greed to potentially ruin it? I wonder how 25th st. stacks up to Huffakers' data?

Blog Administrator said...

"Anonymous" post removed by blog administrator, per the WCF terms of Service Policy.

ozboy said...

The original purpose of RDA projects was to clean up seriously blighted areas of inner cities. These areas usually had a lot of owner-less properties as a result of people abandoning them rather than pay taxes.

The blight of large inner city areas along with the absentee owners put the burden on city administrations to do something, thus the RDA laws were born. They work pretty well when used as originally intended

At the heart of the RDA's is the concept of paying for the clean up and rehabilitation of slum properties by issuing bonds that would then be paid back by the new property taxes being laid on these improved properties. Actually a great method to clean up large inner city slums.

Unfortunately this good tool has fallen into the hands of ambitious and corrupt self dealing politicians who have taken it way beyond its original purpose. They have taken to defining "blight" as practically anything they want it to mean so that they can get the easy money to launch ambitious ego projects that don't necessarily make economic sense otherwise. Nice neighborhoods have been declared blighted and even pastures have been so designated by corrupt city officials. They also have perverted the spirit of the RDA concept in order to take other people's properties through eminent domain actions.

Just like so many other things in our society, a good idea is taken over by greedy self dealing politicians in league with their insider cronies and corrupted beyond their original purpose.

Ogden's RDA, under the incompetent leadership of the Lil Lord, is a prime example of a great economic ideal taken over by a pack of sleazy operators and highly misused. When an RDA is corrupted, like Ogden's has been, it can very easily become a huge mega million dollar debt on the citizens, like Ogden's has for instance.

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