Saturday, September 07, 2013
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Locally certified downtown historic district offers greater benefits

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[September 07, 2013]  The Lincoln Historic Preservation Commission had several items to discuss at the August meeting. April Doolin, who chairs the commission, gaveled the meeting to order in the Lincoln City Council chambers.

First on the agenda was a review of the reason for designating downtown Lincoln as a historic district.

The historic preservation ordinance recently passed by the city allows for districts or structures of significance to become landmarked with the city of Lincoln. The downtown area is already on the National Register as a historic district. The locally recognized district being worked on has the same boundaries as the long-established national recognition. The new, local register district would offer further benefits to the city and to property owners.

With the current focus of the city council on the restoration and improvement of downtown Lincoln, the designation of the area as a historic district would protect and enhance the historic buildings and landmarks, as well as allow for the city to apply for more grants for the area.

On the owner side, research has shown that historic landmarks and districts rise in property value faster than normal property values.

Also, a well-maintained historic district could expect to attract new residents to Lincoln as well as tourists. The city of Pontiac is a prime example of how this concept can benefit the entire community. That community, much like Lincoln in size and similar in heritage, is enjoying success after doing the same steps now laid out for Lincoln.

There are also benefits to home and business owners. Certified structures that are properly rehabilitated may qualify for a 20 percent rehabilitation tax credit from the federal government.

Tina Warfel of Prairie Engineers reported to the preservation commission that all of the owners of property within the proposed historic district had received a packet of information asking for their feedback about whether they would consider joining the historic district. Warfel said that 70 percent of the 150 packets were hand-delivered to the property owners who reside locally. Some property owners live outside of Lincoln and several are out-of-state.

So far, 32 responses had been received, with 28 agreeing to join the district and four sending a negative response. Those responding negatively still had some questions about what impact joining the district would have on their property rights. The preservation commission is working to respond to all questions.

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Doolin was quick to point out that the intent of the district is to enhance the property without interfering with personal choices concerning property. The historic district is put in place to safeguard the historic structures, not interfere with personal choices.

In order for the historic district to be formed, 51 percent of the properties must be pledged. Each property has a property tax ID that can be voted to be included in the historic preservation district. Some property owners, such as downtown businessman David Lanterman, own multiple properties. Lanterman would vote each piece of property separately in the count toward 51 percent.

In other business, there was a discussion on the design of plaques that would be placed on the buildings that receive landmark status. While some signs were distributed in the 1980s that designated historic buildings, there was no official entity behind the signs. The new ones would have a date and "Lincoln Historic Preservation Commission" embossed on the plaque.

Lincoln businesses and homeowners can request nomination by submitting an application to the Historic Preservation Commission. The applications are available at the building code enforcement office at City Hall.

The preservation commission was formed by the city council and is a part of city government. The commission is also interested in structures of architectural significance in order to highlight them and preserve them for future generations.

After the meeting, Doolin explained further that homes and structures that are landmarked with the city today will be protected and have statewide recognition. As an added benefit, "landmarked homeowners have the opportunity to leverage the assistance of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency when researching their home's history and architecture," Doolin said.

The next meeting of the Lincoln Historic Preservation Commission will be at 6 p.m. Sept. 19 in the Lincoln City Council chambers.


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