Downtown Building Owners Understand Historic District

Downtown Jamestown building owners apparently understand what a historic district designation entails.

Between April 28 and May 28, three public meetings were held at the Dr. Lillian V. Ney Renaissance Center, 119 W. Third St., about the possibility that the downtown area could receive a historic district designation. Jamestown Renaissance Corporation officials have been working on classifying the downtown area as a historic district for several months. In doing so, they have sent building owners letters about the proposed historic district designation and hosted the three public meetings.

Peter Lombardi, Jamestown Renaissance Corporation deputy director, said the three public meeting were sparsely attended. He said the first and the last meeting no one attended. He said people only attended the second meeting when a representative from the state Historic Preservation office was there to answer questions.

”We actually got a few developers and community members to attend,” he said. ”It was a small meeting. It made it easier to ask the state representative questions. I thought it was a very productive for the people in attendance.”

Lombardi said the questions were detailed like, ”Is my building in the district?” or ”Why were the boundaries drawn the way they were?” If Jamestown is approved for the historic district designation, around 100 properties from First to Fifth streets and from Washington Street to Prendergast Avenue will join the registry.

Lombardi said the most interesting aspect during the meeting with the state representative was information about other cities that have received a historic district classification, as well as information about the Jamestown Gateway Train Station and the Wellman Building, which both have been identified individually as historic buildings.

”They talked about the benefits they have received from being on the list of historic places and how they have benefited from the historic tax credits,” he said. ”They saw what was accomplished in other communities with access to the tax credits.”

By becoming a historic district, it would allow 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.

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. If a building owner wants to receive the tax credits for renovations a plan has to be approved by the state.

”It is optional if a property owner wants to take advantage of the tax credits. If they don’t, there are not restrictions to what they do with their building,” he said.

Lombardi said he believes the meetings didn’t receive many attendees because people understand what the historic district classification means.

”People understand it can only benefit downtown property owners,” he said. ”If they choose to take advantage of the tax credits being in a historic district it can only help them. My overall sense is people understand that this is good for downtown Jamestown.”

Lombardi said the next step if for the state Historic Preservation Office officials to make a decision on applications for districts or individual buildings. Lombardi said their next meeting is Thursday, June 12. He said if Jamestown is approved, the federal Department of Interior then needs to approve the application.

”If all goes smoothly with the federal government, they could probably approve the historic district by September,” Lombardi said.

Additional information on the National Register and historic tax credits, visit www.nps.gov/nr and www.nysparks.com/shpo.