Downtown Historic District

Here is a mid-August update since I have been receiving a number of comments both for and against the proposed district. My understanding is that on Monday we will be asked to table the item and bring it back in September. I have also been assured by a number of owners that they are working towards a solution.

I feel that there is broad agreement that there is historic value in the proposed district, that has some economic and social value, and business owners should have broad ability to use their building in whatever way makes successful. I think with that as a basis we can come up with some solution.

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I have read and reviewed hundreds of pages pertaining to the possible creation of a downtown historic district and am supportive with some caveats. Public hearings and open houses have been held. The professional analysis that was completed on behalf of the city shows the threshold to create a historic district has been met. The areas in question represent an historic commercial district which has stood that test of time and continues to support vibrant businesses. As always; data changes my mind, but this is where I am at as of writing. I do get a sense based on some of the comments that there has been some fear mongering going on. I believe many of the fears expressed will prove unfounded.

The restrictions for the proposed Historic District are among the most mild I have ever seen in any historic district. There are not restrictions which inhibit the current use of buildings or modifications on the interior of the buildings. This is truly about preserving the public realm. This is much like zoning and something that local governments frequently do. Exterior modifications or even appropriately scaled vertical additions are not off the table but would go through a public review.

I believe our proposed downtown historic district has value to the community. I believe the individual businesses in and around the district benefit from the public realm as a whole. Most importantly I believe this is a reflection of how we became who we are as a community. This is the commercial district that led to the greatest medical institution in the history of humanity.

I do believe that the City should have skin in the game. I believe we have, and I am willing to do more. This part of the discussion should continue.

Here are a few of the ways that the City is already supporting businesses in the proposed Historic District.

  • Public parking and no onsite parking requirements.
  • Facade improvement grants.
  • Special event permits.
  • City subsidized programming.
  • TIF and University public subsidies.
  • Private use of public right-of-way.
  • Built a drunk wall (OK, I don’t like this one…).

Here are some addition ways that I would potentially be willing to work with contributing properties within an historic district.

  • Waiver or reduction in future road reconstruction fees.
  • Waiver or reduction in future development fees.
  • Higher level of design in future road right of way reconstructions.
  • Professional assistance with State & Federal Historic Tax Credits.
  • Professional assistance with individual property designation.
  • Consideration of TIF or other public subsidies.
  • Formally adopt a position supporting tax reductions for historic properties (a state decision).

I would like to be able to reduce property taxes on historic properties, alas this power must be granted from the state. Reducing speculation on how a property may change in the future is one way to prevent irrational sale prices.

2 comments

  1. I respectfully disagree, in fact I couldn’t disagree more. The proposal stands in the way of free enterprise. Property owners should not be subject to additional restrictions unless they choose to do so. I went to early DMC meetings and a question came from a concerned property owner concerning the threat of eminent domain dictating what would be done with their property. It appears that this is the same horse of a different color. Please vote “no” on this proposal.

    1. Thank you for the comment. You are correct that this would be a restriction on property rights, however we as a community do this all the time through zoning and land use. I am not in favor of anything that would restrict the free use of the buildings, I am interested in saving what makes the area beautiful. I do think by taking a step back we can come at this in a more collaborative way.

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