Urban Heritage as a Means of Economic Development

Heritage is almost always related to the concept of territory as both a geographical and cultural entity. It is also related to social and community organizations, which are often formalized today as territorial administrative units.  The intangible heritage consists of the elements which represent the culture of every community, which are expressed in a variety of actions, manner of speaking and thinking, the symbolic repetition of historical facts and by the setting of ethical or moral rules. The examples of intangible heritage that are most likely to be preserved are those related to a particular knowledge and operational skills. One particular characteristic of this type of heritage is that it is, in fact, a living heritage. It is composed of an ensemble of collective phenomena which are faced with extinction, and others which are in the process of being generated.

Why is heritage important?

  1. Cultural and social values
  2. An economic potential
  3. Multiple sources of income
  4. Job creation
  5. More affordable products
  6. A positive image of the territory

Sustainable development

  1. Building Materials – Brick, plaster, concrete and timber ingredients of a typical historic structure are among the least energy consumptive materials rather than plastic, steel, vinyl, glass and aluminum.
  2. Construction – repairing and reconstructing means money is spent locally thus sustaining the local economy.
  3. Waste efficient – Razing a heritage building to the ground means rubble which occupies a landfill site preserving means up keeping the same premises without undue waste
  4. Neighborhood stabilization – Heritage areas focus a lot on the concept of social interaction preserving the existing fabric means preserving the social linkages too.

Economic development

  • Jobs – created by historic rehabilitation activity and other preservation related employment
  • Property values – property rate of a structure is heavily impacted due to its placement in a historic district also these districts are less vulnerable to the volatility of fluctuations in the real estate and economic downturns.
  • Heritage Tourism – increase in tourist implies better local expenditure- retention in the area, revitalization of local arts and crafts, and increase in local revenue. One of the fastest growing sector for tourism is aviation. It is interesting to note that a large number of students search for how to become a pilot as the tourism sector is bound to prosper.
  • Small businesses – more than 50% of the economic activities in a walled city comprises of small scale and the historic structures in the walled city act as incubators for these businesses.

Sense of identity

Women – It provides an opportunity for the women to participate in businesses (craft, lodging, restaurants, guiding)

Community – it instills a sense of belonging by preserving tradition and cultural values and respects the traditional self-organization of the locals.

The different dimensions of living/urban heritage

Urban heritage is mostly multi-dimensional. It covers, to varying degrees, four dimensions or different asset series in the same area: physical and technical capital (economic in the narrow sense), human and social capital, natural capital, and cultural capital

  • The economic dimension essentially groups physical assets such as economic infrastructure (transportation), networks, and buildings without any particular historical merit, business equipment, and community facilities.
  • The human and social dimension encompasses the main characteristics of the resident population, in particular, its qualifications and the details of its social life.
  • Natural capital, such as parks, landscapes, ponds, etc., is an integral element of the urban heritage.
  • The cultural dimension mostly consists of the historical buildings and cultural manifestations in the area under consideration.

Proponents of sustainable tourism believe that if development is founded on small-scale, locally owned activities, tourism can fulfill a non-consumptive use of resources, which appears to have the potential to serve both conservation and local development roles as well (Furze, De Lacy, Birckhead 1996).

In this case, the benefits are threefold.

  1. First, there will be less need for financial investment in infrastructure and superstructure facilities compared to conventional mass tourism.
  2. Second, locally owned and operated businesses will not have to conform to the corporate Western identity of multinational tourism concerns and therefore can have a much higher input of local products, materials, and labor.
  3. Third, the profits made should accrue locally instead of flowing back to the state or foreign organizations (Cater 1994).

Sustainable development is the positive socioeconomic change that does not undermine the ecological and social systems upon which community and society are dependent. Its successful implementation requires integrated planning and social learning processes; its political viability depends on the full support of the people it affects through their governments, their social institutions, and their private activities.

Compatible uses also raise the building’s economic viability, promoting the efficiency of local economic activities and its social benefits. The degree of change to the historic fabric is defined by the selection and legal designation of conservation-worthy buildings. However, too much legislated protection can restrict essential growth and modernization, pushing development to peripheral areas. To a large extent, this can be controlled by integrating conservation areas within comprehensive development plans to promote a strategy for transportation, environment, energy, land use and design, and public facilities that applies not only to local areas but to the city scale (Berke and Conroy 2000).

The quality of new development also reinforces the sense of place that supports community identity and attachment (Berke and Conroy 2000). Revenues generated from tourism should feed back into the local community through mechanisms of cross-subsidization such as revolving trusts to refurbish and reclaim buildings or enforced entrance fees to tourist attractions.

The nature of involvement should take many forms, not just the provision of schools, hospitals, and social services financed from tourism but also through the replacement of alternative economic livelihoods, if the traditional is being removed from the community (Cater 1994). Such an involvement extends beyond economic survival, environmental conservation, and sociocultural integrity, but it allows the community to appreciate its own resources (Furze, de Lacy, and Birckhead 1996).

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Craig Scott

I love to spend all the time I can outdoors and find every excuse to leave my house. I write about everything about our planet and I edit even more of it. I hope you'll join me in making the Earth a cleaner and greener place!

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