November 7-8: Preservation Law and Policy: Crises of Legitimacy


Is our city’s preservation system working? 

In the past year we’ve seen the pitched legal battle over the Church of the Assumption escalate, the Overbrook Farms Historic District derailed by politics and protest, and plenty of historic buildings demolished (or threatnened) thanks in part to scarce protections afforded through local designation.  

So how does Philly stack up against its peer cities in terms of historic preservation policy? Are other cities dealing with similar issues or are they setting examples that Philly’s preservation community can learn from?

Our colleagues at PennDesign’s Graduate Program in Historic Preservation* are convening a conversation about preservation public policy next week which we hope will inform Philadelphia’s thinking about its own preservation environment and how to improve our city’s preservation practices.

In the words of symposium co-organizer Aaron Wunsch:

“PlanPhilly readers know our town has witnessed a slew of high-profile preservation cases in recent years. This symposium is a chance to see how leading legal and policy experts make sense of the underlying issues. It is an opportunity to discover how local cases do and don’t fit trends in other cities. It is a time to bring such vexing legal concepts as ‘hardship’ and ‘public interest’ down to earth.”

The event is free and open to the public. Advance registration online is required. See you there?


Thursday, November 7, 6pm: Pre‐symposium keynote by Prof. Peter Byrne, Georgetown University

Meyerson Hall, Upper Gallery, 210 S. 34th Street

Friday, November 8, 9am-5pm: Preservation Law and Policy: Crises of Legitimacy Symposium

Meyerson Hall, Lower Gallery, 210 S. 34th Street. Doors open 8:30am

9:00am: Introduction on symposium goals – Randall Mason, University of Pennsylvania

9:15‐9:45am: Underlying drivers and expectations: preservation and its relationships to economic development and community well‐being – Donovan Rypkema, PlaceEconomics

9:45‐10:30am: The state of preservation law in national perspective – William Cook, Deputy Counsel, National Trust for Historic Preservation

Coffee break

10:45am‐12:30pm: Reports from the field: Reflections on the state of preservation law and policy from three large cities

  • Chicago: Lisa DiChiera, Director of Advocacy for Landmarks Illinois
  • New York: Mark Silberman, Counsel, New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission
  • Philadelphia: John Gallery, former Executive Director, Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia

12:30‐1:30pm: Break for lunch

1:30‐3:30pm: Forum discussion: Brief presentations from a few invited speakers about the changing national legal and policy situation from a variety of perspectives, followed by audience participation. Speakers will include: Aaron Wunsch; David Hollenberg; Autumn Rierson Michael; and others.

3:30‐4:00pm: Wrap‐up and comments – Peter Byrne and Randy Mason

* Two-Part Disclosure: I am a graduate of Penn’s preservation program. PlanPhilly is a project of PennPraxis, an applied research arm of PennDesign.

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