Living in a historic district isn’t necessarily for everyone. But as the roughly 6% of Lakelanders who reside in the city’s seven historic districts can attest, there are many benefits. These include:
Cities generally expand outward over time, so older neighborhoods tend to be close to the downtown core. They also tend to be more walkable, bikeable, and transit-friendly than other areas. The American Journal of Preventive Medicine noted, “Neighborhoods built a half-century or more ago were designed with ‘walkability’ in mind. And living in them reduces an individual’s risk of becoming overweight or obese.”
Across dozens of studies, homes in local historic districts have higher rates of appreciation than similar properties elsewhere. The premium can vary depending on specific features of the home or neighborhood, but the boost in value is often between 5 and 20 percent. “As a general pattern, homes in historic districts do better when the market is moving up, fall later and less steeply when markets decline, and begin their value recovery sooner than other neighborhoods,” according to PlaceEconomics.
Charm is a big part of the appeal of living in a historic district. Homes are more likely to have one-of-a-kind features, interesting architectural details, and quality craftsmanship. But historic designation can also give people a deeper appreciation of homes that might otherwise seem plain. Many homes built during the Florida Land Boom of the 1920s or the Post-War housing surge of the 1950s are practical and unembellished, but they reflect significant trends from those eras: optimism, functionalism, the rise of automobile ownership, growing families, and the shift from urban to suburban living.
Historic districts tend to have less owner turnover and a greater proportion of residents who have lived in their homes for a decade or longer. Long-term residents often feel a heightened sense of responsibility for their homes and a deeper connection to community spaces and local heritage. This can increase civic engagement and pride. Historic designation also helps to preserve communities by discouraging unwarranted demolition.
Historic designation reduces uncertainty for property owners. For most people, their home is their biggest financial asset. With historic designation, it is unlikely a developer will buy your neighbor’s house and replace it with an apartment building or an out-of-scale McMansion that might lower your home’s value. As architect Christopher Dallmus put it, “When you buy into a historic district, you can rest assured that, in 30 years, it will tend to look very much the same.”
As architect Carl Elefante once noted, “The greenest building is the one already built.” A major study by the Research & Policy Lab of the National Trust compared the environmental impact of retrofitting an older home versus building a new energy-efficient structure. They found it takes 10 to 80 years for the operating savings of a new “green” building to overcome the negative climate change impacts of the construction process. In addition, demolishing one modestly sized house generates an average 62.5 tons of landfill waste.