Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Campus Heritage Planning: Understanding the Economics and Managing the Financing

Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Campus Heritage Planning: Understanding the Economics and Managing the Financing

Article excerpt

A great institution has to value looking good - campus heritage is both a spiritual and a monetary issue.

For many it's a dollars and cents issue; for others, it's a heritage or spiritual issue. In reality campus heritage is both a spiritual and a monetary/economic issue.

Some say that heritage should reflect institutional values, tradition, academic stature, and the role graduates have played in society, and others cast aside tradition and pay attention to the mighty dollar. For them, it's the bottom line that counts.

So let's explore the two main competing drivers of campus heritage planning. One is good citizenship - yes, the institution should exercise good citizenship in its attitude toward maintaining campus heritage, heritage that may be physical or spiritual (e.g., traditions). But being a good citizen in principle is not enough when economic times are tight. It is too easy for the financial side of the organization to review decisions on maintaining campus heritage, whether physical or spiritual, solely on the basis of affordability, the other competing driver. The institution must have a list of critical factors that define a campus heritage element, which may include a structure's age, its placement (sense of place), its physical design, and its contribution to the institutional brand image (including the financial/economic impacts of a strong brand). A rationale stating importance may not be enough. Heritage must be supported by a comprehensive policy developed before emotions heat up as a decision deadline on a specific project nears, and this policy must be enacted by the board of trustees so it will withstand the quite probable pressure of a loud debate.

Is higher education the only setting that should be concerned about managing cultural heritage? No, not necessarily. There are numerous private corporations that have a physical image and assets to maintain. However, the need to preserve that image may be subject to more competitive and short-term market forces than those that impact higher education institutions.

There are many types of governmental and nonprofit organizations that have management responsibility for historic buildings and open spaces. They too should evaluate the value of their physical setting or spiritual image and determine if it contributes to their image as a whole, their vitality, and their long-term economic health. But because of public pressure, owners in these two sectors often don't have control, as zoning boards and community groups can take a position of public interest on private property. Or they simply lack the resources and/or the ability to make long-term investments given their political or community situation.

It could be said that higher education is better equipped to control and devote resources to preserve a physical image than any other type of organization. That is probably true, provided there is a universal commitment to campus heritage. Higher education institutions are also better positioned than most other owners of heritage assets to take the lead in heritage planning and preservation. Why?

1. The institutions are committed to the land they occupy. They're not going anywhere, not going to sell their property and relocate staff and important physical elements. Sometimes they are land-grant institutions. In any case, they are there for the "long haul" - but there is more.

2. The historic aspect of buildings - a historic quad populated with mature trees, a library or student union that is the backdrop for student gatherings, or the site of a bonfire before a special football game - can help reinforce the brand image of the campus. More than any other kind of organization, a higher education institution depends on the strength of its brand to reflect the quality of its programs, which then allows it to attract the kind of students and faculty needed to fulfill its mission.

3. Higher education institutions have faculty or staff that can devote the time and energy needed to prepare a historic preservation plan more easily than in the private sector. …

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