Historic Preservation Policy in Chicago

Douglas Noonan

April 19, 2011 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Harris School of Public Policy Studies
1155 E. 60th St
Room 224

Presented by Douglas Noonan, Associate Professor at the School of Public Policy at Georgia Institute of Technology

This talk will explore Chicago's historic landmarks ordinance in light of its political and economic drivers and implications. Prof. Noonan will provide some empirical evidence on the complex impacts of Chicago's preservation policy on sale prices and also how it affects the supply of buildings, especially those of historic quality. Evidence from a variety of analyses will be woven together to address some of the more politically pressing questions in historic preservation debates: How will preservation affect property values? Is it quality architecture or official designation that drives prices? Why do we put some things on the list to protect and not others? And if preserving existing historic quality doesn't actually create more landmarks, what do mandates do to the long-term supply of new worthy landmarks? A controversial 2009 court ruling placed Chicago's venerable Landmarks Ordinance in jeopardy after raising some of these questions. The answers are unlikely to please preservation advocates but, Noonan argues, a more economically informed approach to preservation policy might both defuse some controversy and improve its effectiveness in enhancing and protecting local cultural heritage.

Dr. Douglas Noonan is an Associate Professor at the School of Public Policy at Georgia Institute of Technology. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago (2002) in Public Policy. The core of Prof. Noonan's research is at the intersection of environmental, urban, and cultural economics, emphasizing the provision of and adaptation to urban amenities. This includes projects on economic valuation of environmental and cultural resources, the determinants of state arts agency funding, and the economics of historic preservation. He is currently developing new projects on measuring the "sense of place" people have for cities and on identifying the optimal mix of new and old elements in the built environment. He serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Cultural Economics.