By Lila Mei Lee, Alexandria
To the editor:
On September 12, the Alexandria City Council will hear an appeal filed by the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority regarding the Parker-Gray Board of Architectural Review’s unanimous denial of its request to demolish the Ramsey Homes, located along the 600 block of N. Patrick St.
One of the many arguments upon which council must decide is whether retention of the Ramsey Homes “promote[s] the general welfare by maintaining and increasing real estate values, generating business, creating new positions…” ARHA argues the Ramsey Homes are “not of such significance that they merit individual study.” This argument, however, lacks basis in truth, and numerous studies have in fact proven the opposite.
Property values in historic districts are protected by an assurance that other nearby properties will maintain their historic character and never be demolished, as a way to limit negative externalities. Demolition of the Ramsey Homes, which are specifically noted as a contributing resource to the Uptown/Parker-Gray National Register Historic District listing on the National Register of Historic Places, not only would chip away at the foundation of the Parker-Gray Historic District but also would impact real estate values for other properties within and near the historic district.
Numerous studies have found a direct, positive impact on home values in close proximity of a historic building, as well as for homes located within a historic district. In particular, a 2011 study by researchers at VU University in Amsterdam found home values within 50 meters — approximately 165 feet — of a historic building, including historic homes, are 0.28 percent higher than properties outside this radius. Additionally, the study found home values for houses within a historic protected area carry a 26.4 percent premium over properties outside the jurisdiction.
Similarly, preservation and rehabilitation also have a demonstrated positive impact on the local economy, namely in the form of new jobs and increased revenue. A study by the Massachusetts Historical Commission demonstrated that for every million dollars spent on preserving historic buildings, 34 more jobs and $53,000 more dollars of household income are generated than the same million dollars on new construction.
If city council overturns the BAR’s unanimous denial of ARHA’s request for demolition, not only would this be an injustice to both property owners and Alexandria residents, but it also would establish a dangerous precedent for the value we place on other historic buildings throughout the Commonwealth.