Saturday, July 06, 2013
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Downtown Lincoln redevelopment and revitalization go together with historic preservation

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[July 06, 2013]  Interim chairman Ron Keller gaveled the inaugural meeting of the Lincoln Historic Preservation Commission to order the evening of June 27 in the council chambers of City Hall. The commission is an entity created by ordinance by the Lincoln City Council and tasked with maintaining the historic nature of downtown Lincoln.

Darren Forgy of Prairie Engineers was asked to review the reason Lincoln has established the Historic Preservation Commission. Forgy began with the grant application that the city submitted to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity in 2010 and was approved in 2011 to redevelop downtown Lincoln.

The grant set in motion the steps necessary for redevelopment, including a comprehensive plan. Two steps were then taken: first, a redevelopment plan for the historic downtown district, and then a revitalization plan for the area, defining the steps that will improve downtown.

Redevelopment and revitalization require defining what a historic resource is and then stating the goals of the Historic Preservation Commission. Basically, a historic resource is a building or space that defines the unique nature of Lincoln.

In the past, the historic connections of the city to Abraham Lincoln and to Route 66 have been examples that set the city apart. They are connections that can be used to draw tourists and new business along with the economic benefits those would provide.

The goals of the Historic Preservation Commission are (1) identification of historic characteristics, (2) promotion of civic pride, (3) stabilization of Lincoln's landmarks and historic area, (4) protecting and enhancing the city to attract business, and thereby increasing economic benefits to the city and its residents, and (5) encouraging preservation and restoration of structures and neighborhoods.

In order to achieve these goals, the Historic Preservation Commission needs to apply for Certified Local Government status from the state of Illinois.

Benefits from this status would flow to the owners of the downtown property. One of the benefits is a 20 percent federal tax credit on historic structures that are properly rehabilitated.

Property owners may also be eligible for the state's Property Tax Assessment Freeze Program.

While much of the discussion at the meeting concerned the historic downtown business district, Ron Keller was quick to point out that the Historic Preservation Commission represents the entire city of Lincoln. "Historic and architecturally significant buildings are located all over Lincoln," he said.

In order for a district such as downtown Lincoln to achieve historic status, 51 percent of the property owners have to agree to be included.

"That process is ongoing," Forgy said. "The work of finding the owners of the downtown property and then sending them the explanation and paperwork to be included in the historic district will take some time."

Several owners have already responded.

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Once the district has been established, all building permits for those structures within the historic district would have to be vetted by the commission for appropriateness. Structural historic items could not be altered. Keller pointed out that the commission would not overreach its mandate to preserve the historic nature of buildings. The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency would be consulted to determine if a proposed project would preserve the historic nature of downtown.

The commission has set forth criteria for designating historic districts and historic landmarks, which are two different entities.

The number of buildings in a proposed historic district, as well as contiguous properties, and current historic integrity, are of primary importance in designating a historic district.

A historic landmark must have significant value as part of the characteristics of the community. Identification with a historic individual, such as a politician or architect or builder, is another of the criteria for landmark status.

Areas within the city, as well as a unique structure, would also be used for the determination.

After discussing the benefits of the existence of the Historic Preservation Commission, permanent officers were elected. April Doolin agreed to serve as chair, with Mike Fak as vice chair and Bill Vineyard as secretary. Meetings going forward will be in the council chambers of City Hall on the third Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. The next meeting will be on July 18.

City residents interested in the commission mandate can obtain several documents from Darren Forgy of Prairie Engineers. Downtown property owners should also contact Forgy to obtain the forms needed to be included in the downtown historic district. The sooner the district is established, the sooner the benefits can begin to flow to the city of Lincoln and its residents.


Brochure  (PDF)

Map  (PDF)

Letter to property owners  (PDF)

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