This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.
Ryan Avent tweets:
Preservation is often a good idea, but cities and citizens should recognize and face the real, high opportunity costs: http://bit.ly/9Ude6X
He links to an article in City Journal by Ed Glaeser, who writes:
It is wise and good to protect the most cherished parts of a city’s architectural history. But New York’s vast historic districts, which include thousands of utterly undistinguished structures, don’t accomplish that goal. Worse, they impede new construction, keeping real estate in New York City enormously expensive (despite a housing crash), especially in its most desirable, historically protected areas. It’s time to ask whether New York’s big historic districts make sense.
Glaeser overstates the case. The historic areas that he thinks have gotten out of control constitute less than 1% of Manhattan’s total area. But I do think there’s something to the argument.
The Congress for the New Urbanism’s website has several positive articles on historic preservation, and indeed, preserving America’s pre-automobile, human-scale thoroughfares is an obvious thing to do when you’re trying to reduce car dependency. But at some point, doesn’t the desire to preserve urban areas for people outweigh the desire to save every run-down house in the neighborhood?