Donovan Rypkema

Washington, District of Columbia

Award Type: Crowninshield Award

Few people have had more influence on all aspects of preservation than Donovan Rypkema. Rypkema, the principal of PlaceEconomics, a Washington, D.C.-based real estate and economic development-consulting firm, has worked on projects in 49 states, the District of Columbia, and 42 foreign countries. His areas of expertise include rightsizing, training in community-based development, economic revitalization of downtowns, and the rehabilitation of historic structures. Rypkema’s best-known book, The Economics of Historic Preservation: A Community Leader’s Guide, originally published in 1995, is an invaluable resource for preservationists across the country.  He has worked with the Urban Land Institute, the Mayors’ Institute on City Design, the American Planning Association, the International Downtown Association, the World Bank, and hundreds of other international, national, statewide and local organizations.

There are few people in the field of preservation who have more fun than Rypkema.  His dry sense of humor and clever wit, combined with his intellectual yet straightforward approach to saving historic resources, help him forge connections with decision makers and effectively deliver the message of preservation’s economic benefits. Countless neighborhoods, Main Streets, and individual sites are still standing today because he has conveyed the undeniable benefits of saving those places for the future. And countless preservationists are committed to the field today because Rypkema has inspired them.  At a time when many battles in the field are won by proving preservation’s economic impact, Donovan Rypkema is simply priceless.   

 “We are proud to present the National Trust’s highest honor to Donovan Rypkema,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “One of Don’s many assets is that he manages to be both a dreamer and a realist. In addition to having a gift for imagining what a successful restoration project could be, Don is also pragmatic and excels at framing historic preservation as a fundamental economic development tool. In short, he is one of the preservation movement’s foremost thinkers who also knows what it takes to get the job done.”