Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Gatesville to apply for downtown historic district

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The City of Gatesville is pursuing the establishment of a historic district following recent approval from the Texas Historical Commission in mid-February.

Now that Gatesville is considered eligible for a historic district, city staff can begin the process of registering downtown as a place of historical significance that has a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

“Establishing a downtown historic district can yield multiple benefits, including economic development, enhanced visibility of our downtown, property value appreciation, a sense of community pride, and sustainability,” City Manager Scott Albert said. “However, the primary objective of forming the historic district is to enable property owners to access various incentives and financial assistance programs, such as tax credits, grants, and other initiatives to support the rehabilitation of downtown buildings.”

According to a 2015 study by The University of Texas and Rutgers University, more than 10.5 percent of all travel in Texas is heritage related. A historic designation not only promotes tourism and development, but also allows building owners to utilize federal and state tax credits to refurbish their properties.

The city hired the historic preservation firm, Post Oak Preservation Solutions, in September to help apply for the historic designation.  

“Listing on the National Register of Historic Places is an honorary recognition of a property or district’s historic or architectural significance,” said Rebecca Wallisch, senior architectural historian with Post Oak Preservation.

Property owners within the district can receive up to 45% of coverage for building rehabilitation expenses (25% in state tax credits and 20% in federal tax credits). Albert said that the goal is to establish multiple financial mechanisms within the historic district where building owners can potentially recover 75% or more of their restoration costs.

Listing on the National Register does not restrict building owners if they choose to refurbish their properties, Wallisch explains. However, to take advantage of historic tax credits, alterations and upgrades to buildings must follow the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for rehabilitation as well as be approved by the Texas Historical Commission and the National Park Service. Rehabilitation projects include minor upgrades such as a replacement roof, upgraded HVAC, or a full-scale restoration of the interior and exterior.

“It is recommended that property owners check with an accountant familiar with the tax credit process to determine what aspects of their projects are qualified rehabilitation expenses (QREs),” Wallisch said.

Wallisch notes that a property must not only be income-producing to utilize federal tax credits, but must also be either income-producing or a non-profit business for state tax credits.

“Furthermore, although difficult to quantify, rehabilitation of historic buildings in downtowns has a significant economic impact to the broader community,” Wallish said. “Revitalized downtowns (bring) added tourism, increasing the economic vitality of businesses within the area. Increased tourism also helps to boost adjacent industries, including restaurants, hotels, and short-term rentals.”

Wallisch adds that the listing also provides consideration of how developments such as highway construction or infrastructure projects can impact historic buildings.

Post Oak will meet with the Texas Historical Commission to finalize the historic district boundary and which buildings are eligible for the district. The firm will then compile the first draft of the National Register nomination that they plan to submit by summer 2024.

Once Post Oak submits the first draft, owners of contributing properties can begin applying for historic tax credits.

“Gatesville is very lucky to have the beautiful Coryell County Courthouse as the focal point of the downtown business district,” said Danny Corbett, Chairman of the Coryell County Historical Commission. “The establishment of a historic district will be of great benefit to the city.  Protecting and preserving historic buildings will aid the city in recruiting new business to the downtown area and will also help current businesses grow. Businesses will be able to get tax credits, grants, and loans to help preserve these historic buildings.”

Post Oak anticipates receiving the final nomination on the September agenda of the Texas Historical Commission’s State Board of Review. If approved, it will proceed to the National Park Service, and then will be listed on the National Register of Historic Places in early 2025.