Historic district is considered

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BELOIT — Dozens of community members filed into the Todd Elementary School gym Tuesday night for a presentation on the potential designation of a collection of 159 properties in Beloit as a new historic district with the National Register of Historic Places in Wisconsin.

The proposed district encompasses properties primarily along Chapin Street, Emerson Street, Milwaukee Road, Oakwood Avenue, and Sherwood Drive, and would be called the Milwaukee Road and Emerson Street Historic District.

Director of Planning and Building Services for the City of Beloit Drew Pennington said the primary reasons for consideration for the district were a plethora of homes built between 1868 and 1969 which are of the Queen Anne, Ranch, Prairie, Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival and Dutch Colonial Revival architecture styles.

In order for the district to be established as historic, it must possess according the Wisconsin Historical Society "a significant concentration, linkage, or continuity of sites, buildings, structures, or objects united historically or aesthetically by plan or physical development."

"Or in simpler terms, when you walk into that neighborhood, you get a sense you are walking back in time, a sense you are in some place special," said Joe DeRose, certified local government coordinator for the Wisconsin Historical Society.

DeRose gave a presentation addressing many of the common questions related to the historic designation process that he said often come up across the country. He dispelled the myths that listed properties in the district would be open to the public, and that homeowners cannot paint their homes or make other changes.

Homeowners were assured they would be free to remodel kitchens and bathrooms, put on additions, add air conditioning, update electrical systems, give their building new use or essentially do whatever they wanted, as long as no federal or state money, licenses or permits were involved.

DeRose also touched on the issue of taxes, explaining that income-producing properties can receive federal and state tax credits of 20 percent each. There is also a state tax credit for non-income-producing residential properties of 25 percent, which comes with the caveat of a minimum of $10,000 in approved work done on the house. This work can be parsed out over multiple projects and can include exterior work such as roof replacement and painting, electrical wiring, plumbing, mechanical systems such as furnaces, air conditioning and water heaters and structural work such as jacking up floors. It does not include site work such as driveways and landscaping, electrical fixtures and plumbing fixtures. These repairs must be approved and cannot be done retroactively for repairs started before the district is designated and the repair is approved.

Houses within the district are not all automatically qualified for the tax credits as well. Qualifying homes must be at least 50 years old and possess either historical significance or historical integrity. The latter was defined by DeRose as "if the original owners of the house saw it today, would they recognize it?"

Pennington took written surveys from those in attendance, but will be reaching out in the next month to homeowners within the proposed district for an official survey of whether or not to move forward in the application process. DeRose said the designation could take until mid-2019 at the latest, and well into 2018 at the earliest.

For more information, contact Drew Pennington at penningtond@beloitwi.gov or Joe DeRose at joe.derose@wisconsinhistory.org.

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