Regenerating a historic place is not a linear process, unexpected detours and unforeseen opportunities are common. It also progresses incrementally, with creative ideas evolving from trials (and errors!). And it takes a team with a range of talents, a shared vision, and strong leadership. Most importantly, there is no cookie-cutter approach: each historic place will need its own tailored strategy. Whether you are trying to save a place at risk by imagining a new use, or trying to increase the community relevance and financial sustainability of an existing historic place, we’ve pulled together the key success factors that will help you with your regeneration project.
‘Mapping’ out your physical and human assets is critical input to decision making. This includes knowing the physical construction of your place, its condition and performance, as well as its designation status and heritage values. The understanding the place’s non-physical assets is equally important: the people that support your place, their interests and competencies; the perception of your place held by others; the reach of your existing networks.
Having a clearly defined and shared vision or mandate statement can help you rule out options, focus your team’s energy, and guide your communication strategies. It also frames how partnerships will be pursued and managed, for example how a not-for-profit organization will co-exist with potential new functions such as public services, social enterprise or commercial activities.
It is increasingly evident that historic places can only survive if they are relevant to their communities. This has to start with an understanding of local demographic profiles and trends, local issues and needs, and who are your potential collaborators and partners.
Regenerating a historic place takes strong leadership and a team with diverse skills and backgrounds. If the place is to truly reflect its community and context, the regeneration team needs also to include representatives from that community and the target audience / client base. Because of the range of activities your team and its leadership will need several competencies to address these critical success factors.
Historic places can very rarely rely solely on governmental subsidies and entrance fees. Having diversified revenue streams may be more complicated to manage, but over the long run is more resilient and sustainable. Beyond fundraising from donors, other sources of funding need to be investigated for major capital investments and ongoing management. This can include different ownership and management models, space sharing, commercial activities.