The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation

Shaping National Preservation Policy

Community Revitalization

Fostering a better appreciation for the role of historic preservation in the health and vitality of communities.

Urban renewal and the loss of historic fabric in American cities were key motivators in the writing of the seminal report With Heritage So Rich as well as the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966. These challenges and related federal urban and community development policy, and the role in general of historic preservation in U.S. community revitalization, became a major focus of the ACHP’s work.

Since its inception, the ACHP has been dedicated to helping communities appreciate, understand, and effectively utilize their historic resources.  The Department of Housing and Urban Development was one of the original federal members of the ACHP. As communities wax, wane, and rehabilitate, historic resources play a pivotal role in promoting community spirit and fostering a stable economic base for the future.

The ACHP formed an Urban Policy Group of members and staff, and produced a special report in 1979 on Preservation and Revitalization.

In order to assist the General Services Administration (GSA) in complying with the terms of the Public Buildings Cooperative Use Act of  1976, the ACHP prepared a report (1980) to GSA on historic resources in 29 cities in the southeast. GSA was preparing a Regional Planning Memorandum on each of these cities, in which Federal agencies “now located outside the central business district are assessed for future consolidation downtown, in accordance with President Carter’s EO 12072.”

In 1981, the ACHP’s Urban Policy Group prepared a report titled “Remember the Neighborhoods:  Conserving Neighborhoods through Historic Preservation Techniques.” The ACHP looked at such tools as historic district ordinances, federal environmental laws, code enforcement, easements, revolving funds, property tax relief, federal tax incentives, direct federal assistance (grants) and indirect federal assistance (Surplus Property program, Public Buildings Cooperative Use Act), and various subsidies for rents and low-income housing. The work of private organizations, including national and local nonprofits, was also briefly examined.

Under the terms of such federally-authorized programs as Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and the Urban Development Action Grant (UDAG) program (instituted as part of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1980), local governments were responsible for addressing historic preservation and other environmental review requirements. ACHP staff worked closely with HUD and local CDBG and UDAG recipients, and developed model Programmatic Agreements to tailor the historic preservation review process to the local development and project approval process. Special procedures enshrined in regulations were issued by the ACHP for preservation review through the UDAG program in 1981.

The ACHP’s 1989 and 1992 annual reports included a focus on the conservation of historic towns and cities (based in part on international models for preserving historic city centers) as well as how protection and enhancement of key federal properties like historic post offices and courthouses could provide “touchstones” and economic drivers for local community development.  The 1990 report concentrated on rural preservation and rural cultural landscapes, and included a series of case studies based on its Section 106 review experience.

These themes have been a continuing part of the ACHP’s work as it has looked at such issues as the place of military installations and base closure, closure and consolidation of U.S. Post Offices, and modifications and additions for U.S. courthouses and other federal office buildings.

The ACHP’s efforts and its discussions with GSA and others helped lead to issuance of Executive Order 13006 (1996), mandating that federal offices, where possible, be located in historic structures in the downtown portion of America’s cities. ACHP studies on urban revitalization and affordable housing policy have provided much needed guidance on how historic structures and districts could creatively serve the needs of cities’ most vulnerable populations.  In 1995, an ACHP task force produced the first ACHP policy statement on Affordable Housing and Historic Preservation (updated and modified in 2006).

Want to explore this topic further? Check out these original documents and interviews with key players from the ACHP archive!


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The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation

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