Historic District Designation Possible

“Welcome to Downtown Jamestown’s Historic District” could one day be a sign read by people visiting the city.

Officials at the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation have been preparing the necessary paperwork to get parts of downtown on the National Register of Historic Places as part of a historic district. If the state Historic Preservation Office approves the historic district designation, around 100 properties from First to Fifth streets and from Washington Street to Prendergast Avenue will join the registry.

Greg Lindquist, Jamestown Renaissance Corporation executive director, and Peter Lombardi, Jamestown Renaissance Corporation deputy director, said the state will make its historic district determination for those submitting nominations on Thursday, June 12. Prior to the possible historic district designation, three public meetings will be held to provide information at the Dr. Lillian V. Ney Renaissance Center, located 119-121 W. Third St. The first public information meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Monday hosted by corporation officials who will answer any questions that building owners may have regarding the possible designation. The second meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 14, that will be sponsored by the state Historic Preservation officials. The third meeting will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 28, and again hosted by corporation officials.

By achieving the designation, it would enable building owners to undergo renovation projects that could receive federal and state historic tax credits. It would also allow nonprofit-owned buildings the chance to qualify for federal and state preservation grants. A listing on the National Register is mostly honorary, and doesn’t place any restrictions on what a private owner does to a property with their own money.

“There is no negative. There is no downside, only an upside,” Lindquist said.

It does give property owners access to resources to assist with renovations associated with preserving a historic asset. The primary form of assistance is tax credits. When a commercial building on the register undergoes a renovation, the owner or developer can access federal income tax credits worth 20 percent of eligible project costs. In New York state, you can couple the 20 percent federal credit with a 20 percent state income tax credit.

“With the tax credits you can offset your tax liability or sell the tax credits on the open market,” Lindquist said.

Lindquist said two renovation projects have already been done downtown that wouldn’t have been possible with out the assistance of historic tax credits. One was the Wellman Building renovation. The building, located at 221 Cherry St., had sat vacant since 1985, but underwent a $7.4 million renovation that preserved the look and design of the building. The Wellman Building features custom designed apartments and commercial space.

The second project was the renovation to the Jamestown Gateway Train Station, located at 211-217 W. Second St. The former Erie-Lackawanna Train Station is now a popular location to host community events or private engagements.

Lombardi said the state Historic Preservation Office also doesn’t have the same stringent guidelines other historic groups assess on to building or business owners. He said the historic designation does not come with similar restrictions owners of buildings at the Chautauqua Institution have to follow base on its rules. The city of Jamestown does not have that level of control in place for historically designated buildings.

Additional information on the National Register and historic tax credits, visit www.nps.gov/nr and www.nysparks.com/shpo. For more information, contact Lindquist or Lombardi at 664-2477 or go to jamestownrenaissance.org.