Theses Master's

Measuring the Impact of Historic District Designation on Real Estate in New York City

Lewis, Julia Barksdale

Although carried out in practice for centuries, historic preservation as a professional field is relatively young and has not yet fully harnessed data that could be used to support the theories of the field. Not taking advantage of the data that exists could be a missed opportunity for the field of preservation to grow into an even more robust practice. This thesis will present new ways to analyze historic districts using data and recommend methods for future analysis that evaluate how historic districts function in New York City. While the designation of historic districts has always been somewhat controversial, recently, historic district designation has come to the forefront of discussion in New York City. The real estate community has begun to use data to generate studies in opposition to historic district designations.

This thesis presents the recurring arguments raised by property owners and real estate developers against historic district designation in New York City and develops a methodology by which to evaluate these concerns. These arguments will be categorized into three subjects: policy and process, operational, and monetary. The policy and process category will present testimony and literature that discuss the roles of planning and preservation entities in New York, the timing of the processes relevant to preservation and planning, and the debate over the designation of historic districts versus individual building landmarks. The operational category will focus on evaluating the operation of existing historic districts and whether the district designation “froze development” or “limited investment” within the neighborhood. The discussion of monetary subjects will summarize research conducted in relation to property values within a historic district; the costs of fees, time, and materials associated with a designated building versus a non-designated building; and the current discussion about the effects historic districts have on affordable housing in New York City. This methodology uses existing data for New York City to study historic districts. In some cases, data does not exist and proposals for collection in the future are made. This thesis tests the methodologies on historic district performance in Manhattan overall and in the Ladies’ Mile Historic District.

The thesis evaluates and critiques the methodology developed and recommends ways in which it can be improved. It will set up a framework for future research and data collection. In summary, as the accessibility and quantity of data usage increases, there is hope that some of this information can be applied to the study of historic preservation. This thesis dissects the reasoning behind the arguments for and against historic district designation in New York City by focusing on specific arguments that have been raised prior to designation and generates a methodology for the evaluation of historic districts through existing data sets. It also provides a framework for future studies that could be conducted should the data become available to further this research.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Wood, Anthony
Avrami, Erica
Keenan, Jesse
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
September 17, 2014