Downtown buildings

Downtown buildings along Central Avenue between the Second and Third Street. For decades, this single block has been the only part of Faribault’s downtown listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a whole. That could change very soon. (Andrew Deziel/ Faribault Daily News)

More buildings in downtown Faribault could soon be eligible for historic rehabilitation tax credits from the state and federal government if a large portion of downtown is added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Currently, the downtown historic district includes the large majority of downtown Faribault, generally encompassing the area from Division to Fifth Street and First Avenue NE and just west of First Avenue NW. However, only the 200 block of Central Avenue is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Owners of buildings situated within the historic districts have the ability to apply for federal and state tax credits to help fund preservation and essential improvements. The new district would include buildings not currently located in either district. Overall, around 100 buildings would likely be included in the new district.

The city applied for the expansion in 2012, shortly after the Minnesota Legislature created its own version of the historic registry tax credit. The complicated application process requires careful evaluation of each building within the proposed historic district. Paperwork must be completed not only by the city but also by each building owner. To assist with the application process, the city hired consultant Dan Hoisington, the president and owner of Hoisington Preservation Consultants.

After seven years of carefully evaluating each building within the downtown area to determine historical value (or lack thereof), Hoisington says that he expects the paperwork for the new historic district to be completed and submitted by the end of this month. The application will first go to the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office, then the Minnesota State Historical Society’s state review board, before reaching the National Parks Service (which runs the National Historic Registry) for final approval. The process, which could take six months to complete.

Hoisington praised Faribault’s downtown for its unique character and said the city has been uniquely committed to preserving its historic character. With a combination of fine architecture and rich history behind it, Hoisington said the city is a natural fit for the historic registry.

“I think it’s one of the finest historic downtowns in the Midwest,” said Hoisington.

Karl Vohs, who sits on the city’s Heritage Preservation Commission, is a former owner of a building within the 200 block of Main Street. Vohs said that for both him and the people he sold the building to, Historic Preservation tax credits provided a lifeline, enabling them to prevent the high-maintenance older building from falling into disrepair.

Funding for Minnesota’s historic preservation tax credits is also provided partially through the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, one of four funds which receive money through the Minnesota Legacy Amendment. The Legacy Amendment, a 25-year increase to the sales tax, which voters approved in 2008, also provides money for the Outdoor Heritage Fund, Parks and Trails Fund and Clean Water Fund.

Faribault Community Development Director Kim Clausen, who serves as staff liaison for the Heritage Preservation Commission, noted that even once the tax credits have been approved for downtown, newly eligible downtown business owners won’t be able to utilize the funds to perform just any upgrades they want. Each proposed improvement must follow clear guidelines and be approved by both the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office and the National Parks Service.

Along with the significant funding would come stricter modification guidelines on all buildings located within the historic district. Guidelines are put in place to protect the character of the downtown area. In addition, program guidelines are designed to prevent building owners from offloading smaller day-to-day maintenance costs onto the program.

Reach Reporter Andrew Deziel at 507-333-3129 or follow him on Twitter @FDNandrew.

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