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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Goal formulation and achievement in historic district preservation Van Westen, Pieter Kornelis


Each year millions of Canadian and Americans return to their country from visits abroad praising the varied character, the sense of distinctiveness, the historic charm and the rich atmosphere of the cities they have visited. Simultaneously, North America each year demolishes more vestiges of its historical heritage as it proceeds to pave more streets and parking lots and erect bigger and taller buildings. In this urgent process of building and rebuilding, irreplaceable remnants of our urban past which can give North American cities some of the highly-praised charm and atmosphere found in Europe are frequently obliterated as the 'unavoidable' price for growth and progress. Throughout the last century many individuals and private societies have, nevertheless, attempted to save and preserve some of the most noteworthy relics of our cities past for the enjoyment of present and future generations. Since about 1950 this embryonic preservation movement has redirected its emphasis from the saving of individual buildings to the preservation of entire historic districts within North American cities. Traditionally, the impetus for and the costs incurred in historic district preservation have been solely the responsibility of the private sector. The last few years, however, have seen a rising involvement of all levels of government in district preservation. Urban government, throughout the continent, is taking a serious look at the viability of restoring and rehabilitating declining but potentially rich neighbourhoods. Historic district preservation has at this point in time truly entered the ambit of city planning and it is vitally important that the planning profession appreciate the techniques and procedures now available to guide and facilitate success in this activity. This study was directed at discovering what is currently being done by planners to maximize success in historic district preservation. A broad survey of some 68 different historic district projects in North America served as the vehicle for this examination and an examination of goal formulation achievement was used as the most appropriate single dimension through which the overall problem can be approached. The central hypothesis formulated in this thesis is: Recurrent planning targets of Historic District preservation projects in North America in the 1960's can be classified under 15 broad goals. These are: (1) To encourage the restoration and preservation of buildings on a private basis where possible to such an extent that they will be desirable as private homes or places of business. (2) To improve the architectural merit of the rehabilitation-restoration work in the district. (3) To attract 'new development' to the district in order to instill new life, to broaden its tax base, or for other reasons. (4) To ensure that new construction is compatible with the existing historical context and architectural setting. (5) To acquire and preserve with public monies those buildings in the district that are worthy of preservation and cannot be saved through private means. (6) To relocate within the district historic buildings from outside the historic area that would otherwise face destruction. (7) To ensure the district's continuing existence as a living, functioning community - not a 'museum complex'. (8) To make the district a focus for cultural activity and a centre for the arts and crafts. (9) To develop and conserve those attributes of the streets, grounds, public squares or parks that contribute to the district's overall character. (10) To recognize the requirements of the automobile while also subordinating these requirements to the need for preserving the quality of the historic environment. (11) To improve the quality of the district's environment by systematically eliminating incompatible and undesirable uses and structures. (12) To carry out a relocation program for low income population which is being displaced. (13) To offset the pressures of land speculation within the district. (14) To enact and generally improve legislative measures designed to protect the quality of the district's environment. (15) To promote and advertise the district in order to develop local interest and to create a definite tourist attraction. The survey revealed that of these 15 hypothetical goals eight are generally considered highly relevant to virtually all projects irregardless of any variable (goal 1, 2, 4, 7, 9, 10, 11, 14). Five of these goals (goal 7, 2, 1, 9, 4) are, on the whole, being achieved with a high degree of success. Lastly, the study brought to light a great number of 'tools and techniques' which are currently being used to aid in the attainment of the planning goals.

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