Private Preservation: Using Garden City-Inspired Legal Tools to Preserve Communities and Heritage

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Garden City
land trust
private government
garden suburb
Historic Preservation and Conservation
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Preciado Ovalle, Santiago

This thesis looks at the legacy of Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City vision, and analyzes how a reappropriation of privatism and communal land ownership and management can work to preserve communities and heritage as an alternative set of tools to public preservation. Using the law of property to explore private legal and economic preservation tools, this thesis explores the precedents of private governments and the use of restrictive covenants as tools for private preservation. Using the legacy of communal land ownership and management, the thesis explores the use of land trusts and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), and their potential to be used in preserving heritage sites while giving community members a powerful voice and a financial dividend. Three railroad and garden suburbs in Queens – Forest Hills Gardens, Richmond Hill, Kew Gardens – are used as inspiration for this thesis and the latter two of them as case studies where we can learn about the problems that communities face with public preservation, along with the realities of social, economic, and political transaction costs that present difficulties to private preservation. Despite challenges with advocacy and education of the use of these private preservation tools, there is great potential for their use in protecting heritage and communities. As communities struggle to adapt to the realities of development, displacement, and lost heritage and community, we can look at Howard’s vision for a radical approach to land tenure and management that helps us envision novel ways of preserving heritage and community through the private realms.

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Suggested Citation: Preciado Ovalle, Santiago (2019). Private Preservation: Using Garden City-Inspired Legal Tools to Preserve Communities and Heritage (Masters Thesis). University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.
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