Theses (Historic Preservation)

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



Suggested Citation:

Smith, Margaret Louise (2014). No Property Left Behind: An Exploration of Abandoned Property Policies. (Masters Thesis). University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.


Historic preservationists work on both the micro and the macro level: at the micro level, they handle the site-specific, bricks and mortar issues, and at the macro level, they manage community-oriented plans, such as historic districts. The two levels are important to grasp for placemaking – creating, or retaining, a sense of place. Historic preservation and placemaking are thus interrelated. Consequently, preservationists have equal concerns about abandoned properties as planners and as community advocates. In order to grow and serve the communities, preservationists must appreciate and exercise more than just those tools commonly found in the standard historic preservation lexicon; they should embrace using all policy tools available to them. To be effective leaders in placemaking, preservationists need to leverage what their colleagues in government, policy-making, and community advocacy have developed to address abandoned properties.

This thesis compiles five of the most prevalent policy tools that cities are correctly using in their strategies to address abandoned properties: code enforcement, receivership, mothballing, land banking, and strategic demolition. The exploration of the five tools is intended to equip preservationists with a comprehensive guide on how these tools should be used, the various ways in which cities use them, and their relationship with preservation.


placemaking strategies, vacant, shrinking cities, preservation planning, rightsizing



Date Posted: 03 September 2014