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We think Philly’s great, but are we World Heritage City great?

7/14/2015 | Real Estate Blog

By the end of the year, Philadelphia may be the first World Heritage City in the United States. The designation would put the city on the same list as Assisi, Italy, Mexico City and Chengde, China and more than 200 other cities around the world.

It sounds impressive, but what does it mean? And what does Philly have to do to be added to the list and, of course, to stay on it?

A site on the World Heritage List has a certain cachet for locals and tourists. In a city, property values around the site can increase significantly. The World Heritage Fund can take some credit for those gains, too: If a site is damaged — as, for example, many sites in northern Italy were in the 2012 earthquake — the fund can help with repairs. The burden of upkeep is not entirely on the country to maintain the property.

The list is a product of UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention, held more than 40 years ago. Countries that sign on to the Convention — 191 at this writing — agree to promote nature conservation and to protect their cultural heritage. around the world. By signing, each country pledges to identify sites within their boundaries that should be included on the World Heritage List. While the individual sites must meet certain criteria, the country must also show that the site is protected and how the country will continue to protect it.

Each country is responsible for nominating an identified site for inclusion on the World Heritage List. The nominated site is evaluated by Advisory Bodies (organized according to the Convention). The Advisory Board looks at the overall universal value of the site and whether it satisfies as least one of 10 basic criteria. The World Heritage Committee then makes the final decision.

The sites on the list are notable, for example, as masterpieces of human creative genius, according to the World Heritage Information Kit ( These sites may

exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town planning or landscape design.

They may represent living cultures or cultures that have disappeared.

Philadelphia’s World Heritage Site is Independence Hall, which was among the first sites to be added to the list. So why isn’t Philly already a World Heritage City?

We’ll explain in our next post.

Source: Philadelphia CBS Local, “Mayor Nutter Upbeat on ‘World Heritage City’ Designation For Philadelphia,” Pat Loeb, July 9, 2015