Theses (Historic Preservation)

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



Suggested Citation:

Maust, Erica Janine (2013). Placing Color: Architectural Color & Facade Improvement Programs in Commercial Corridor Revitalization in Philadelphia. (Masters Thesis). University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.


Exterior changes to existing and historic buildings in depressed historic areas signify financial investment and change, and have the potential to play a significant role in both urban preservation and revitalization. Changes to exterior architectural colors are perhaps the most visible signifier of such revitalization, as the use of color changes as a tool in façade improvement programs nationwide demonstrates. As part of façade improvement programs, changes to the exteriors of existing buildings in historic cities are most often a visual indication of adaptive reuse. Urban façade improvement programs that are dedicated to commercial corridor revitalization provide a variety of funding and services to business and property owners. The existence of such programs suggests that beautifying neighborhoods through changes to existing building exteriors will benefit business and property owners economically. This thesis proposes to explore and analyze the various government-sponsored façade improvement programs in Philadelphia to determine their impact on commercial corridor revitalization (or economic success as determined by the City) and on their long-term sustainability after initial investment. If façade improvement programs are indeed successful as indicators of change within a community, and thereby adaptive reuse of existing buildings, then the application of such programs within historic districts has the potential to dramatically impact the way we view, use, and reuse the existing built fabric of our cities. This thesis examines these programs and their application citywide through Philadelphia-specific case studies that are exclusive to façade improvements or upgrades rather than those that include façade improvements as part of a more comprehensive rehabilitation strategy for individual structures or neighborhoods.


color, environment, facade improvement programs, community development, architectural color history



Date Posted: 25 February 2014