23/10/2007 - 22:00

CBD heritage back in the spotlight

23/10/2007 - 22:00

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The City of Perth Heritage Appeal is challenging negative perceptions by launching two innovative programs and pushing the economic case for heritage preservation.

CBD heritage back in the spotlight

The City of Perth Heritage Appeal is challenging negative perceptions by launching two innovative programs and pushing the economic case for heritage preservation.

Fresh from its successful “Look Up Campaign”, aimed at raising the profile of Perth’s heritage properties this year, the not-for-profit group is looking to make Perth the “city of light” by introducing a scheme to light up heritage buildings at night.

Executive director of the appeal, Richard Offen, said it planned to use renewable energy sources and low energy lighting to display Perth’s heritage assets to greater affect.

Mr Offen said it would first launch a demonstration building next year, most likely the Perth Train Station, before rolling the scheme out across several prominent sites in the CBD.

The group is consulting with the state government’s Sustainable Energy Development Office on the plan.

“These imaginative lighting schemes have worked to great affect in cities all over the world, and there is no reason why it can’t work in Perth for both old and new buildings,” he said.

With a $30,000 grant from the Lotteries Commission of WA in hand, the group is also planning to create a new heritage trail in the city which will provide participants with property history and details via audio and targeted mobile text messages.

Mr Offen said the use of SMS for heritage tourism was probably a world first and was a way of engaging with a wider audience, especially youth.

“There is this impression out there that all heritage is bad and restrictive to development and that it costs more to restore than to demolish and rebuild…heritage isn’t a financial burden, it’s a valuable asset. It isn’t all doom and gloom,” he said.

Mr Offen said he had been surprised at the lack of interest from property owners in the City of Perth’s heritage program, which provides incentives such as grants and plot-ratio development incentives.

The latter, involving the transfer of plot-ratio from heritage properties to regular properties in the city area, has been used only eight times since its introduction 13 years ago.

“There is a lot of reticence to take them up. What I’m hearing is that quite a lot of owners don’t want to even acknowledge that their properties are heritage listed in the hope that it just goes away,” he said.

“They’re saying ‘we don’t want to lose plot ratio so we’re going to wait a while in case it’s de-listed’. I would argue the legislation is going to get stronger, not weaker.”

In Perth this week on behalf of the National Trust, leading US real estate and economic development consultant Donovan Rypkema is helping to push the economic and cultural case for heritage preservation.

Mr Rypkema said there had been a lot of analysis conducted over the past ten years on the economic advantages of preserving a heritage site over re-building it, and measurable benefits had emerged.

“Some studies have demonstrated that restoring an old building and giving it a new use creates more jobs and local income than building a new one,” he said.

“There are also the measurable rates of appreciation within heritage districts on property values.”

Mr Rypkema cited heritage tourism, city centre revitalisation projects and small business incubation through the inventory of heritage buildings for small business use as the other measurable benefits.

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