The Economics of Place

August 1, 2023
D.C.-based PlaceEconomics visits St. Petersburg as Preserve the 'Burg launches economic impact study.

Elihu and Carlolyn Brayboy stroll slowly down 22nd Street, seemingly impervious to the July Florida heat. One by one, they pass by the low-rise storefronts of The Deuces. Elihu talks about the challenges of rehabbing buildings in the historically Black business district, the new tenants in the spot that previously housed Chief’s Creole Café, and construction delays – today they were expecting a foundation to be poured for a new building, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen as planned.

Behind them, a group of researchers from the Washington D.C.-based firm PlaceEconomics scribble in notepads and take photos.

Before touring The Deuces with the Brayboys, they were in Central Avenue’s Edge District and, after lunch at Sid’s Caribbean Grill in the old Chief’s spot, it was off to Historic Uptown, then Mirror Lake and the Shuffleboard Club and a meeting with a group of community members assembled by Preserve the ‘Burg.

“Early on, the idea of recognizing the value of historic buildings and neighborhoods was rooted in aesthetics and history – building types and styles, architecture, the history of a place, who lived there,” Preserve the ‘Burg’s executive director Manny Leto told a group of supporters at a reception later that evening. “That is absolutely important. People need to see their history reflected in their city. But we need to include something else,” he said, “economics.”

That’s where PlaceEconomics comes in. Preserve the ‘Burg has hired the firm to look more specifically into the economics behind what PlaceEconomics principal Donovan Rypkema calls “old stuff.”

“I have no idea what the data in St. Petersburg will be,” he says. But studies in cities from Palm Beach to San Antonio suggest that rehabbing older homes might help us solve our affordable housing crisis and that older commercial structures like those along Central Avenue can help small local businesses get a leg up. Quantitative research comparing home values often reveals that those in local historic districts out-perform those in non-designated neighborhoods. That’s the kind of thing Rypkema and his team will look at in St. Petersburg.

In addition to touring much of the city by car and on foot, the PlaceEconomics team met with dozens of community stakeholders and city officials over the course of 10 meetings in just two and half days. At the end of their visit, they met for breakfast with the PTB board to finalize plans for the study, which will look at density, affordable housing, property values of historic resources located in flood zones, social attitudes and perceptions related to historic preservation, and more.

“It’s proactive,” said Leto. “Let’s really dig into the numbers and make an economic case for preservation.”

A final study is due sometime in the late fall.

If you’d like to know more about the PlaceEconomics study, email us at

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