National Park Service
Heritage Preservation Services   —   Historic Preservation Planning Program
Phoenix, Arizona Bird's Eye View, 1885

Planning Companion

Typical Planning Process
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Step 1.
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Step 2.
Creating a Vision »

Step 3.
Understanding the Resources »

Step 4.
Other Planning Factors »

Step 5.
Issues and Opportunities »

Step 6.
Goals and Objectives »

Step 7.
Implementation Strategies »

Step 8.
Producing the Plan »

Step 9.
Implementating the Plan

Step 10.
Revising the Plan »

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A Typical Planning Process

Step 9. What Actions Will We Take to Achieve Our Goals? Implementing the Plan

Once the plan is completed and distributed, implementation Ė or putting the plan to work Ė is the major activity. Implementation means that a goal, objective, or task is carried out. In other words, implementation is action.

The plan does no one any good if it sits gathering dust on a shelf somewhere. It must be put to work by carrying out the strategies that have been identified. An organization or individual needs to take responsibility for making sure action is taken to achieve the planís goals. Ideally, the plan is implemented by using a combination of:

  • Legal tools, including ordinances, standards, guidelines, procedures Ė planning, zoning, subdivision, historic districts, historic designation, design review, etc.

  • Government programs and expenditures, such as the preservation program, preservation commission, staff, budgets.

  • Financial and other incentives, such as investment tax credits, historic property tax reduction, revolving loan programs, purchase/transfer of development rights, low-interest loans, grants, and easements.

  • Property owner stewardship actions.

  • Volunteers from community or professional organizatons.

Plan Implementation Tips

The following useful tips for implementing your preservation plan are excerpted from the article, "A Primer on the Politics of Plan Implementation" by Bernie Jones (Planning Commissioners Journal, Issue 12, Fall 1993, p.5). While this short article is targeted toward a local planning commission audience, the advice it provides is relevant for other planning situations.

Think it through

Plan adoption and implementation need to be seen not as after-the-planning, optional activities for someone else, but as integral parts of the planning process for those who drafted the plan.

Winning support for the plan from public officials needs to be seen as a community relations task. For example, the following series of activities can be effective:

  • Discuss the plan with any willing public official informally before the formal plan adoption hearing.
  • Formally request a city council (or county commission) public hearing and approval for the plan.
  • Rally supporters once the public hearing is set.
  • Let supporters know the rules and procedures for hearings.
  • Carefully organize testimony at the public hearing.
  • media coverage of the public hearing.
  • Stage hoopla for public hearings (e.g., caravan, rally, etc.).
  • Celebrate the councilís formal adoption of the plan.

Strategize results

Plan adoption does not guarantee implementation. To ensure that your plan is implemented, it makes sense to:

  • Identify who will take responsibility for overseeing the planís implementation.
  • Develop priorities for plan implementation. Here are several strategies:
    • Early quick victories: Start with actions that are non-controversial, are quickly adopted, boost morale, establish momentum, build a track record.
    • Importance: Start with the planís most important recommendation.
    • Linchpin: Start with recommendations that pave the way for others.
    • High profile: Start with actions that are very visible and draw attention to the plan.
    • Maximize implementers: Maximize the number of different partners actively addressing at least one recommendation.
    • Multiple fronts: Simultaneously address at least one recommendation from each of the planís major sections.

  • Prepare an annual action agenda of recommendations you hope to see implemented that year.
  • Bite off a manageable chunk of the plan to work on.

Publicize results

Prepare an annual status report of whatís been done. Publicize and celebrate.

Do an update of the plan in a few years. Every plan eventually becomes outdated. By doing an annual action agenda and status report, you will be well on your way toward the preparation of an updated plan.

Nine Steps to Plan Implementation

Robert Stipe, Emeritus Professor of Design, North Carolina State University, identified nine steps for implementing the preservation plan ("What is a Local Preservation Plan." The Alliance Review, National Alliance of Preservation Commissions, Fall 1989):

  1. Officially adopt the preservation plan as a component of the official city plan by resolution or ordinance.
  2. Issue an executive order from the mayor or chief elected official that requires each local government agency to pay special attention to historic resources under its jurisdiction.
  3. Include in the resolution adopting the preservation a provision for planning agency or governing board review of local, state, or federal agency action that may adversely affect historic resources.
  4. Provide the same level of review scrutiny for private projects.
  5. Include in local government capital budgets the financial programs and incentives called for in the preservation plan.
  6. Establish budgets and programs for annual maintenance of historic resources, such as buildings, streets, schools, and other infrastructure in order to improve the quality of life in historic neighborhoods.
  7. Include costs in the budget for public acquisition and preservation of historic resources that would otherwise not be protected.
  8. Ensure that local ordinances are in place where regulation is most effective, such as building additions, infill, demolition, and new construction in historic neighborhoods, and in areas that directly relate to quality of life in historic neighborhoods, including zoning, sanitation, property maintenance, care of vacant lots and trees, undesirable land uses, and earth moving and disturbance.

Tips for Organizational Plan Implementation

In addition, advice from the Alliance for Nonprofit Management (On-line), slightly paraphrased, may offer useful insights for organizations taking action for plan implementation:

  • Actively use the plan as a management tool. Actively using the plan for short-term guidance and decision-making establishes a model for use.
  • Incorporate sections of the plan in everyday management. Formalize the use of the plan in the day-to-day activities of the organization. For example, read the vision statement at the opening of every staff meeting to remind the group of the direction preservation is taking, or require that all ideas for program changes or expansion directly address how the change will help achieve the planís vision and goals.
  • Organize the work of the organization in the context of the plan. Establish operational goals and activities within the context of the preservation plan by including goals and objectives in individual and program plans and evaluations and using the plan to guide decision-making.
  • Design a system for controlling the process. Ensure that there are mechanisms to monitor progress and inform management of achievements. Examples of such mechanisms include evaluation meetings and monthly reports.

Plan Implementation Partners

A specific agency or organization, such as the State Historic Preservation Office or a local government preservation program, may have the lead responsibility for implementing the preservation plan. The preservation plan provides guidance and direction on program annual planning. It can also provide a framework for linking all of the preservation activity in the planning area into a coherent, integrated effort.

In most planning areas, such as local communities or regions, there is far more preservation work than can be accomplished by any one organization. Partners are essential to carry out essential preservation activity. Major partners who could play significant roles in helping implement the local preservation plan could include:

  • State, regional, and/or local government agencies dealing with planning and economic development, transportation, public works, parks and recreation, schools, environmental management, tourism, housing, etc.;
  • Civic organizations who are interested in maintaining the quality and character of their neighborhoods;
  • Non-profit organizations concerned with community character, quality of life, history, open space protection, and museums;
  • Professional organizations related to historic preservation, such as historians, archaeologists, landscape historians, planners, etc.; and
  • Special interest groups whose missions and goals are compatible with historic preservation and the preservation plan.

Integrating and Coordinating the Preservation Plan with Other Planning Efforts

Integration means incorporating historic/cultural resource and preservation values and goals into the policies, planning, programs, and activities of others. For example, a local comprehensive or master plan is a key document that should incorporate preservation values and goals consistently throughout. This does not mean that other organizations, agencies, and groups must adopt the local preservation plan in its entirety.

The development and nurturing of ongoing relationships with others is essential to incorporating preservation into their efforts. Integration wonít happen if preservation planning is done is isolation from other interests and if the plan is merely distributed to others without further interaction.

Measuring Achievement of Preservation Plan Goals

Preservation needs to be responsive to changing conditions, not only as progress is made in resource protection and plan goal achievement, but also in other situations such as land development and funding.

An essential part of plan implementation is monitoring the ongoing progress toward goal achievement. Ask yourself:

  • Are we doing what needs to be done?
  • Are we doing it effectively?
  • What have we accomplished?

It is important to know what actions are being taken to implement the plan, who is carrying out activities, and what progress is being made. Otherwise, it will be very difficult to measure success or to evaluate the need for plan revision when the time comes.


Additional guidance on Plan Implementation can be found in Sources of Additional Information — just click on the menu link to the left.

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