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.
Planning for Planning »

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

Scale of the Plan

Preservation planning can occur at several levels or scales: in a project area; in a community; in a state as a whole, or in the scattered or contiguous landholdings of a federal agency. Depending upon the scale, the planning process will involve different segments of the public and professional communities and the resulting plans will vary in detail.1

Planning scale refers to geographic area covered, which can be a federal, state, or regional land area, local community, a neighborhood, or a specific project.

Scale also relates to the level of detail needed for the plan to be effective.

For example, can a single preservation plan be meaningful and useful for a large area, such as a state like Texas or a large city? Does the large size of the state or city mean that its plan would be either so encyclopedic in detail or, conversely, so general as to be useless when implemented)?

A plan can, indeed, be meaningful and useful for large areas. Such a plan might be a policy plan, providing a statewide or city-wide set of goals and policies, with more detailed regional or neighborhood plans developed for effective plan implementation.

What, then, is an appropriate level of detail for a preservation plan? The level of detail in a plan is related to the size of the planning area, as seen in the example above. More detail can be included in a plan for a small area, than for a large area.

An appropriate level of detail also depends on the quantity and quality of the information available.

Information on specific treatments for specific individual properties is too detailed for a plan covering a large area. This level of detail would be more appropriate for project-specific plans or preservation plans for certain categories of resources in a small geographic area (e.g., neighborhood, historic district).

A preservation plan should be as detailed as it needs to be and can be; the greater the level of detail the easier it is to implement. But if the plan is too general, the result is inaction; if it is too specific, the result is gridlock/loss of flexibility.


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

1  Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Preservation Planning, introductory material.

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