Legacy Business Programs: Emerging Directions

PAS Memo 109

By Elizabeth Morton


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Across North America, especially in rapidly growing communities, the public laments the demise of quirky, independent enterprises — the long-standing barbers, bakeries, and bookstores that have sustained a sense of place for generations. The issue is related to, but beyond the traditional scope of, both historic preservation and economic development agencies, and thus planners have had few tools available to promote or preserve these community institutions.

However, a growing number of U.S. communities are establishing legacy business programs — which range from simple documentation and marketing campaigns to technical assistance programs, grants, and incentives — to support and sustain these businesses. The field is developing rapidly, and the number and breadth of local initiatives is likely to grow significantly in the years to come.

This PAS Memo seeks to broaden planners' exposure to the concept and encourage planners, preservationists, and economic development officials to join forces in viewing authentic longstanding enterprises as critical components to further equity and economic prosperity.


Page Count
Date Published
Jan. 1, 2022
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American Planning Association

About the Author

Elizabeth Morton
Dr. Elizabeth Morton is a planning educator and consultant, specializing in city design policy, historic preservation, placemaking, and urban sustainability. She is an appointed member of the Arlington County (VA) Planning Commission and is on the Executive Committee of APA’s Urban Design and Preservation Division. Dr. Morton taught seminars and client-based studios at Virginia Tech’s MURP program in Northern Virginia for more than a decade. Working with Arlington County partners and VT graduate students, she initiated a legacy business project which compiled new information on longstanding businesses, and documented the stories of business owners through oral histories and multimedia tools. Dr. Morton has worked for a wide variety of arts and preservation organizations, and as a consultant in planning and design has conducted studies for institutions such as the National Capital Planning Commission, the National Park Service, the World Bank, UNESCO, the Metropolitan Institute, the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Urban Arts, and the John F. Kennedy School of Government. Dr. Morton has a PhD (City Design & Development) from MIT, an MCRP (Housing & Real Estate) from UNC-Chapel Hill, and a BA (Art History & English) from Williams College.