State Approves Downtown Historic District

Downtown Jamestown building owners will soon have another reason to redevelop their property.

On Friday, the state Board of Historic Preservation approved the downtown area as a historic district. Jamestown Renaissance Corporation officials have been working for several months applying for the historic district designation. The historic district includes 101 buildings from First to Fifth streets and from Washington Street to Prendergast Avenue. Now with approval by the state, the historic district will be under review by officials from the Department of Interior for the National Register of Historic Places.

Peter Lombardi, Jamestown Renaissance Corporation deputy director, said if the district is approved for the national register too, 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.

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.

Examples of renovations projects downtown that have received historic tax credits because the individual buildings were on the national and state register is the Jamestown Gateway Train Station and Wellman Building.

“Now with more than 100 buildings able to be eligible for the same tax credits this is an encouraging sign,” Lombardi said. “It is another tool in the tool box for downtown redevelopment. By having this tool available, hopefully it will spur additional investment. With the programs the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation has (for redevelopment projects) and with what the city has in place – once you layer the historic tax credits on top – it is a compelling reason to invest in property downtown and renovate properties downtown.”

Lombardi said it is important for building owners downtown to know that if they want to use their own funding for a renovation project, they don’t need any government approval to do so. However, if a property owner wants the historic tax credits, their plan must be approved by the state Historic Preservation Office.

“Having a building listed on the National Register of Historic Places makes the property eligible for tax credits, but doesn’t place any restrictions on the property,” he said. “If you are not interested in using the public incentives, you don’t have to follow any guidelines from the state or federal government. It is completely optional, and we think property owners have recognized that.”

Lombardi said city officials should know by September if approved for the national register as well. Additional information on the National Register and historic tax credits, visit www.nps.gov/nr and www.nysparks.com/shpo.