News Brief

Young Residents, New Businesses Flock to Old Neighborhoods

Crowds gather in mixed-vintage Washington neighborhoods.

Photo: thisisbossi. License: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Research from Preservation Green Lab suggests that age-diverse buildings contribute more to vital, livable communities.

Neighborhoods with a mix of older, smaller buildings give rise to more diverse populations and more new businesses than those made up of newer, larger structures, according to a study released by the Preservation Green Lab, the sustainability arm of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The study, Older, Smaller, Better: Measuring How the Character of Buildings and Blocks Influences Urban Vitality, was conducted in three cities—Washington, Seattle, and San Francisco. The report found that, compared with neighborhoods made up of newer, larger structures, blocks of smaller buildings of mixed vintage are more vibrant, diverse, and economically successful.

In order to measure the relationship between urban vitality and key characteristics of buildings and blocks, the researchers overlaid a 200 m x 200 m  grid over the maps of each city. All metrics—which included building age and size as well as economic, cultural, and social vitality—were normalized for city size and development density across cities through use of these grids.

Older, Smaller, Better found that blocks and districts with a mix of old and new buildings hosted more businesses launched in 2012 than did areas with larger, newer buildings; they were also home to more new businesses per commercial square foot. There was one area where age-diverse neighborhoods lagged: while they were more likely to house new, emerging, and local businesses, larger multi-floor office blocks housed more businesses overall.

Across cities, the average age of residents of smaller, mixed-vintage buildings was also considerably lower than that of residents in districts that built big, new, and large. Young people, more than other age groups, preferred old buildings. In Seattle and San Francisco, blocks of older, smaller buildings also had a significantly higher proportion of women-owned and minority-owned businesses.

The report also found that older and more age-diverse districts had significantly higher Walk Score, Bike Score and Transit Score metrics, leading in turn to more street life and economic activity.


For more information:

National Trust for Historic Preservation

Published June 6, 2014

Nick, D. (2014, June 6). Young Residents, New Businesses Flock to Old Neighborhoods. Retrieved from

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