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Heritage Sites

Not even the richest of countries has sufficient public sector financial resources to own, rehabilitate, and maintain all the heritage buildings worthy of preservation. While in many countries the non-for-profit sector has developed expertise in education and advocacy, rarely do these organizations possess the capital or the development expertise to undertake the rehabilitation of heritage buildings. As a result, the private sector often plays a leading role in redevelopment and ongoing stewardship of historic buildings if they are to be kept in active use.

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have offered a promising new approach to financing, developing, operating, and maintaining historic buildings. PPPs have been used for a wide range of purposes. Notional rents of publically-owned heritage buildings by third-sector organizations who manage them as museums or publically accessible heritage properties, are common in many places. At the other end of the scale, complex urban regeneration projects involving various levels of government, as well as private and other non-governmental partners constitute a large number of PPPs for heritage conservation.

Most heritage PPPs, especially those within more developed economies, are “white elephant” buildings—those difficult to reuse properties for which the private sector, by itself, rarely takes the lead. Heritage PPPs usually involve finding creative new uses for an existing structure, known as “adaptive reuse”, turning long underutilized structures into museums, community centers, or converting them for commercial use. In some cases, heritage PPPs turn previously defunct or abandoned historic buildings into hotels, as seen with Spain’s Paradores, or “castle-hotels”, which have transformed heritage sites into luxury accommodations.

In many heritage PPPs, non-governmental organizations also play a prominent role in the success of the project. Often referred to as the “third sector”, local residents may also be represented in this group, which serves to represent the social interests within the community.

Issues

  • Community buy in

    The majority of successful heritage-building PPPs share a predictable set of common denominators. Chief among these is the recognition of the heritage building as a community asset (regardless of who actually holds the property title), and that...

    The majority of successful heritage-building PPPs share a predictable set of common denominators. Chief among these is the recognition of the heritage building as a community asset (regardless of who actually holds the property title), and that involvement of various levels of the public sector, and multiple sources of financing from traditional and nontraditional private and public sector institutions is essential.

    Moreover, there must be a commitment by all parties to be as flexible as possible in use, financing, timing and in the particulars of the transaction until a mutually acceptable and feasible alternative scenario is developed. This requires compromise and patience from all partners. Even the most successful heritage PPPs can experience significant public skepticism during the planning process.

  • Defining clear goals

    In some ways, heritage PPPs are the same as the most common large-scale infrastructure projects: given their complexity and long-term nature, all partners need to be transparent about their goals, needs, and outcomes throughout the entire...

    In some ways, heritage PPPs are the same as the most common large-scale infrastructure projects: given their complexity and long-term nature, all partners need to be transparent about their goals, needs, and outcomes throughout the entire process. Needs may change within what can be a 10-year or longer project cycle, due to a change in governments or an economic downturn. However, transparent communication can help alleviate potential roadblocks. This is especially important in heritage PPPs, in which the goals and measures of success of the public and private partners may be very different.

  • Market demand

    The cornerstone of a successful heritage PPP lies in asking, “What is the unmet or under-met demand in this market?” and “Could this building be developed to meet that demand or demands?” It is critical to remember that a...

    The cornerstone of a successful heritage PPP lies in asking, “What is the unmet or under-met demand in this market?” and “Could this building be developed to meet that demand or demands?” It is critical to remember that a heritage-building PPP project is rarely developed for a single use. Nearly always, heritage PPPs focus on a mix of uses for the building, thereby meeting market demands and mitigating the volatility of any particular use.

Tools & Guidance

    • 2011
    • Susan Macdonald
    • Getty Conservation Institute

    Leveraging Heritage

    Public-Private, and Third-Sector Partnerships for the Conservation of the Historic Urban Environment

    It is generally accepted that the conservation of cultural heritage requires the involvement of multiple players across the public, private and nongovernment sectors, not only to initiate and carry out conservation but also to sustain the place. However, the practical means and mechanisms to achieving this are only recently becoming the subject of literature. The conservation of the historic urban environment poses specific and urgent challenges that require a multidisciplinary approach, where conservation actions are embedded within economic, social and environmental development strategies. The private and third sectors are increasingly playing a pivotal role in these processes. As part of the Historic Cities and Urban Settlements...

Projects & Case Studies

    • 2013
    • International Finance Corporation (IFC)

    Handshake Issue #10: Tourism & PPPs

    Handshake Issue #10: Tourism & PPPs examines partnerships that have revitalized both natural and cultural heritage sites, along with the investment climate necessities to position these destinations for long-term success. Contributors also highlight the role of transport and access for developing economies with tourist offerings, focusing on the transformative role of low-cost carriers and pedestrian cities. Tourism does best when governments and private companies work closely together bringing in jobs, supports communities, and improves a country’s visibility on the global stage.

Lessons & Analysis

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