This is an article that was written by Scott Tempel, Northfield City Planner.
Downtown Northfield is seen by many as the heart of our community. It is also a huge economic engine for the town and its residents. The vibrancy and importance of the district is reflected in its low vacancy rates, around 2%. There is rarely an empty storefront downtown and vacancies are quickly filled. What an envious position for a community to hold!
But there is more to the downtown than the highly visible retail and service storefronts. Our downtown is filled with office spaces above and behind the storefronts that serve start-ups, small businesses and entrepreneurs. There are at least 124 businesses in the Historic District and 238 in the Downtown Zone. This represents almost 40% of the employers in Northfield. An estimated 990-2342 jobs are generated downtown by these businesses. There are also at least 73 housing units in the downtown, ranging from affordable to high end. All contribute to making the downtown a successful and vibrant district.
While the City of Northfield was seminal in creating the Downtown Historic District, it has been the property owners that have made our downtown what it is today. The investment each individual property owner makes in their building contributes to the collective health of the district, returning economic benefits to the owner. The local district, in turn, protects the investment of property owners by providing consistency and stability, and potentially assistance from the HPC.
Investment in historic structures provides returns beyond jobs and business profits as well. Rehabilitation of historic buildings creates local construction jobs, increases property values, supports tourism and conserves resources. Preservationist like to note that historic buildings contain significant embodied energy; all of the resources, labor and capital that went into constructing the building. This is conserved with preservation and significantly decreases the natural resources consumed compared to new construction.