Post-World War II Commercial Properties and Transportation Project Development: Historic Context and National Guidance on Evaluation of National Register of Historic Places Eligibility

The rapid expansion of commercial development in the United States from the end of World War II through the 1970s created vast numbers of commercial properties along state and federal transportation routes in urban, suburban, and rural areas. An overwhelming number of these properties are already 50 years of age or older, with more reaching that age every year. Thus the rate of exposure of transportation improvements to such properties will continue to rise drastically. This presents an enormous challenge for state departments of transportation (DOTs) and other agencies to evaluate for National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) eligibility as required by Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act which mandates agencies to consider the effects of their projects on historic properties. Section 4(f) requires all possible planning to minimize harm to historic properties. Post-World War II commercial properties, including gas stations, shopping centers, drug stores, office buildings, restaurants and other businesses, that are more than 50 years of age may be considered historic properties if they possess architectural or historic significance and are considered eligible for the NRHP. This problem statement complements National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Project 08-77, published as NCHRP Report 723: A Model for Identifying and Evaluating the Historic Significance of Post-World War II Housing, which successfully addressed the need for a national historic context and National Register eligibility guidelines for post-war houses and residential subdivisions. NCHRP Report 723 has proven to be extremely beneficial to state DOTs; and is one of the most downloaded reports among the Transportation Research Board’s online publications. Similar to residential construction, post-war commercial properties were closely intertwined with transportation improvements, including the expansion of state highways after World War II and the construction of the Interstate Highway System beginning in 1956. Commercial properties frequently stand in close proximity to highways because they took advantage of undeveloped land close to new interstates and housing developments to attract customers. Like housing, commercial properties were built in staggering numbers after 1945, but very little information exists on how to consistently evaluate the potential significance of these properties. First, this research is intended to provide to the state DOTs a proper historic context, supplying a better understanding of the historic and architectural significance of the plethora of commercial properties. Second, the research will give guidance on how to evaluate the integrity and NRHP criteria. Third, this research will provide state DOTs, FHWA, State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPOs), and Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (THPOs) guidance on how to avoid disputes that drive up project costs and delay project delivery. Aside from the greatly needed guidance on this property type, this research could form the basis of a regulatory “Program Comment” from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) to exempt certain common property types and designs from Section 106 consideration. The research objective is to develop resources to complement NCHRP Report 723 on post-World War II housing by providing an historic context that synthesizes national post-World War II commercial sector development, identification of elements, design styles and construction materials and techniques.  


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $300000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 25-58

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590

    American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

    444 North Capitol Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001
  • Project Managers:

    Hartell, Ann

  • Start Date: 20180709
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01672249
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 25-58
  • Files: TRB, RiP
  • Created Date: Jun 18 2018 3:03PM