Historic district takes effect

Jan. 28, 2013 @ 05:33 PM

State officials recently confirmed that the city’s bid to establish a historic district was a success.
The Uptown Suburbs historic district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places Jan. 9, according to the North Carolina Historic Preservation Office. The new district comprises 771 mostly residential structures in parts of several neighborhoods, including Emerywood, Roland Park, Sheraton Hills, The Parkway and Johnson Street, as well as a two-block area of N. Main Street.
Property owners probably won’t notice the designation because, unlike existing locally-designated historic districts in the city, national register status is honorary and carries no new restrictions.
Notification letters and certificates for the property owners were mailed out earlier this month. The city won’t install any signage associated with the district, but property owners can place signs at the district boundaries at their own expense, according to city Development Services Administrator Bob Robbins.
City planners, rather than the property owners, initiated the new district and guided the proposal through state and federal reviews. The city spent $18,000 on the project, the rest of which was funded with a $15,000 grant.
The concept grew out of the recommendations of the Core City Plan, which envisions historic designation as a potential boon to older parts of the city because of the possible tax-credit investment benefits to property owners looking to spruce up their homes or businesses.
According to city officials, properties within the district that are “income-producing” — such as a retail business, office or apartment building — can be eligible for state and federal income tax credits for certain types of upgrades.
In addition, homeowners in the district whose properties undergo restoration or rehabilitation projects can be eligible for state tax credits. The catch for both residential and commercial projects is that the work must be done in accordance with the National Registry’s architectural standards.
“It’s a preservation idea. It can’t just be adding a new wing to your house,” said Robbins. “For example, it could be something like restoring old windows or even interior stuff, as long as it’s true historically — using the same materials and certain methods of restoration. So restoring old woodworking or replastering old walls could qualify, as long as they meet the (federal) standards.”
The City Council gave its blessing to Uptown Suburbs last fall after establishing that a historic district in the heart of the city would not complicate any potential federally-funded road improvement projects or similar infrastructure upgrades.
Some initially feared that any future projects along the portion of N. Main Street in the district might be subject to delays and additional expenses because they might require a special federal review, but officials determined that this would not be the case.
The city has several existing, locally-designated historic districts, including Sherrod Park, Johnson Street, W. High Avenue, Oakwood and Washington Street — all of which differ from Uptown Suburbs in that they are subject to special regulations.
The local districts are subject to zoning overlay standards that require any exterior architectural changes to be approved by the city’s Historic Preservation Commission. This is not the case with Uptown Suburbs.