Historic district for downtown all positives

IT’S A PROSPECT THAT’S well worth exploring – and even more worth adopting.

Under the aegis of the Redevelopment Authority, the city is exploring the idea of applying for historic status for the downtown area. The proposal was presented to a group of interested business and property owners at a meeting last week by Jennifer Lehrke of Legacy Architecture in Sheboygan.

Creation of the district – with boundaries to be determined locally – would need to be approved by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin and the National Parks Service.

Once created, the district would make property owners within its boundaries eligible for federal and state tax credits – up to 20 percent from each – on any approved renovation, restoration or rehabilitation project on their building.

That’s a powerful incentive to revitalize the downtown’s historic buildings and add to the beauty and attraction of downtown Plymouth.

The important thing is that the district – and the incentives it offers – does not create any mandates, restrictions or limitations for downtown business and property owners.

There is no stick here of unbending rules and regulations that must be followed. Instead, there is the carrot of financial benefit for projects that enhance and embellish the historic aspects of downtown Plymouth.

“You can ignore that you’re in a historic district if you want to, or embrace the tax credits. You do not have to apply for the tax credits if you do work on your building,” Peggy Veregin, interim National Register coordinator for the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, told the more than two dozen people who came out in the cold and snow to hear the presentation.

But the potential tax credits make a powerful incentive for building owners to do something positive for their property and the downtown as a whole.

The positive impacts of historic rehabilitations in a historic district are many and were outlined well on the Perspectives page of last Thursday’s Review.

A more attractive downtown, truer to its historic heritage and architecture, will draw even more visitors to Plymouth and be a boost to the businesses there as well as the community as a whole.

To make it even more attractive, any cost to the city to gain the historic district designation could be covered by a grant available from the State Historical Society of Wisconsin.

All in all, it truly seems like the proverbial – and all too often elusive – win-win situation.

The city, the Redevelopment Authority and new Downtown Manager Randy Schwoerer deserve credit for bringing this proposal forward and for leading the charge to make it happen.

Downtown business and property owners should get on board with the idea, give it their wholehearted and enthusiastic support, and then get ready to reap the benefits of downtown becoming a designated historic district.

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