Preservation Plan for Philadelphia

Although Philadelphia is widely recognized as a city with abundant historic buildings and neighborhoods, the city has never had an historic preservation plan or a citywide survey of historic resources.

According to a recent study for the Preservation Alliance, only 4 percent of the properties in the city have ever been evaluated in terms of their historic significance. Data about historic resources in Philadelphia is woefully inadequate for setting preservation priorities and integrating historic preservation into planning and development decisions and neighborhood revitalization. Since 2006, the Preservation Alliance has been collaborating with the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, the Philadelphia Historical Commission, Penn Praxis and other partners to develop the groundwork for a comprehensive preservation plan for Philadelphia. The Preservation Alliance completed Phase I of this planning effort in 2009 with a series of reports evaluating the current state of historic preservation in the city and describing a vision for preservation in the future:

Plan Reports

Historic Preservation in 2020, A Strategic Vision and Strategic Actions, July 2009 (585k PDF) A vision of what historic preservation might be in 2020 and recommended actions to get there. The report recommends that actions focus on four key areas:
  • Creating and communicating information about historic resources and public education programs on the importance of preserving Philadelphia’s distinctive character;
  • Neighborhood revitalization;
  • Economic development and sustainability, with a focus on creating new National Register Districts, including along commercial corridors; and
  • Developing organizational capacity and coordinated management.
Historic Context Statements and Survey Methodology, July 2009 (13.1MB PDF) How to undertake a citywide survey using scanned atlases of historic maps and guided by historic context statements that describe the history of the physical development of the city by neighborhood clusters and key themes. The report includes a list of 1,100 historic atlas plates that are now available through the Greater Philadelphia GeoHistory Network, including 14 atlases covering the entire city. The Economic Impact of Historic Preservation in Philadelphia 1998-2008, March 2010, Econsult Inc. (3.6MB PDF) Documentation that over $7 billion of historic preservation investment in Philadelphia has resulted in $67 million in tax revenues to the city and $258 million in tax revenues to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The report also concludes that historic district designation increases property values an average of 1 percent per year following designation. Focused Conversations and Online Survey on a Preservation Plan, July 2009 (1.6MB PDF) Summarizes findings from focused conversations (2008) and follow up conversations (2009) conducted by Heritage Consulting Inc. on a preservation plan in Philadelphia. The report also includes a summary of the findings of an online survey. Survey of Citywide Preservation Planning in American Cities, May 2008, Randall Mason (312k PDF) An overview of patterns and trends in preservation planning at the citywide scale in U.S. cities. Historic Districts in Philadelphia: An Assessment of Existing Conditions and Recommendations for Future Action, January 2007, Cultural Resources Consulting Group (1MB PDF) This report examines the survey data available in local district and National Register District nominations for neighborhoods in Philadelphia. CCRG identified 60 districts listed on the National Register, an additional 41 districts that had been found eligible for the National Register and 9 local districts. However, most National Register districts had inadequate or outdated survey data or no survey data at all. CCRG concluded that only 4 percent of the properties in Philadelphia had ever been surveyed for their historic significance.

District Context Statements

Overview: The City of Philadelphia (2.4MB PDF) Lower Northeast (3.8MB PDF) North Philadelphia (7.7MB PDF) River Wards (3.5MB PDF) University/Southwest (7.7MB PDF)

Neighborhood Context Statements

Frankford / Bridesburg / Wissinoming / Tacony (5.6MB PDF) Roxborough / Manayunk (362k PDF) Moyamensing / Passyunk & Northern Liberties / Spring Garden (2.4MB PDF)

Thematic Context Statements

Industrial Philadelphia (330k PDF) Modernism in Philadelphia (514k PDF)

Plan Surveys

Scattered Sites Historic Survey Methodology for Frankford (3.2MB PDF) Frankford Survey (15.4MB PDF)