The Right Size, Right Place Forum was a half-day meeting on September 11, 2013, that followed the Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference in Philadelphia. The forum convened a diverse group of preservation advocates, planners, land bank officials, and others working in legacy cities to discuss ways that preservation can be involved in long-range asset-based planning, compare field notes, and share best practices.

Lightning Talks

Eight practitioners gave lightning talks at the Right Size, Right Place Forum on September 11, 2013. The talks tackled topics from community-driven technology to historic district nominations to citywide preservation strategies. Most of the presentations – given with 15 slides at 20 seconds per slide – are available here for review, though not in timed format. Click on each presentation for a full-screen view.

Michael Allen of the Preservation Research Office described improbable  – but not impossible – historic districts in St. Louis:

Faye Anderson of Tracking Change gave an overview of All That Philly Jazz, an initiative that leverages technology to explore the unsung history of a Philadelphia community:

Matt Cole of Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago discussed theories of neighborhood change, and how they apply to a unique local building typology:

Emilie Evans of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Michigan Historic Preservation Network gave an Instagram tour of Detroit:

Margo Warminski of the Cincinnati Preservation Association talked about revitalization strategies being tested and applied in Cincinnati:

Brad White of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation offered a glimpse of the findings of the ACHP’s Rightsizing Task Force:

Additional presenters included Donovan Rypkema of PlaceEconomics and Katelyn Wright of the Greater Syracuse Land Bank.

Summary Notes

The Right Size, Right Place Forum concluded with a discussion on the next steps of the Preservation Rightsizing Network.

What are some great ideas you’ve heard today? Any exemplary practices?

  • Philadelphia zoning code: vacant lots are a non-conforming use
  • Land banks with historic preservation as part of their mission
  • Land banks recapturing value and returning it to programs
  • Land banks reaching a national audience of potential investors in historic properties
  • Conservation districts that create standards for infill development
  • Modified Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for more affordable rehabilitation work – perhaps an alternate version from the NPS?
  • Hardest Hit Fund: exception to subsidize preservation
  • Best practices: taxing vacant properties at a high rate

What gaps and questions remain?

  • Solutions are short-term, but problems are long-term
  • What are proactive (rather than reactive) solutions?
  • What are the economic impacts of demolition vs. rehabilitation?
  • What is the long-term impact on neighborhood population of demolition vs. rehabilitation?
  • At-risk vs. heavily distressed neighborhoods: which buildings should we focus on? Which neighborhoods?
  • Preservation as a tool for incremental change vs. large-scale interventions
  • What are the financial effects of urban renewal?
  • How do we define “long-term”?
  • How do we attract new people (as opposed to “poaching” from other neighborhoods)?
  • How to get the preservation gospel to state and federal agencies?
  • Space – and relationships – between buildings and projects
  • Section 106: What work can mitigation fund?
  • We need to move toward more meaningful mitigation
  • Many problems aren’t obviously preservation problems – we need new knowledge and skills (e.g., receivership, foreclosure prevention)

How can the Preservation Rightsizing Network be helpful moving forward? What role the network play?

  • Engage other non-preservationists as advisory committee or task force – as go-to experts. Example: metropolitan planning organizations determine regional transportation funding.
  • Develop alternative Secretary’s Standards
  • Invite “industry titans” who have done successful rehabs in distressed neighborhoods
  • Best practices briefs for policies, programs, etc.
  • Share successful mitigation strategies
  • Bridge “us vs. them” with meetings, education, and real information
  • Educate local preservation decisionmakers (NAPC)
  • Offer assistance to planning departments to capture competitive advantage
  • Learn more about PlaceEconomics’s ReLocal tool
  • Train preservationists in community organizing and tracking data
  • White paper: too expensive to fix

How do you want to be involved with the Preservation Rightsizing Network?

Roles for organizations and individuals

  • Preservation Green Lab: prove the case that buildings have value; help define what an asset is
  • Blog about why preservation matters for everyone else
  • Link conversations with NeighborWorks America
  • Work with Urban Land Institute to tackle vacant and underutilized property as a “bridge” between preservation and development (Green Lab)
  • Offer training for preservation advocates in community organizing and land use planning


  • National Preservation Conference affiliate session, October 2013 in Indianapolis
  • Historic Preservation in Legacy Cities convening, June 2014 in Cleveland
  • National Alliance of Preservation Commissioners conference, July 2014 in Philadelphia