By SHERRY DIGMON
Interest in a historic district in downtown Atmore is high as evidenced by the attendance at a public hearing Thursday, February 7. About 60 people attended the meeting hosted by the City of Atmore.
Three panelists were on hand to provide information and answer questions – Stephen McNair, owner and senior consultant, McNair Historic Preservation, Mobile; Taylor Stewart, coordinator, Alabama Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program; Collier Neeley, coordinator, National Register, Alabama Historical Commission.
Much of the discussion involved identifying eligible property for tax credits and available grants. The standard for national registry is 50 years; for the state, it’s 60 years or older for tax credits.
One concern for building owners is how much regulation is imposed on buildings placed on the registry. Those fears were allayed.
According to Collier, no one’s on the federal or state level dictates to an owner what they can and cannot do concerning paint, signage, etc. Those are local decisions.
“We have done a preliminary survey,” McNair said. “There are quite a few buildings here eligible for national registry … Sixty or seventy buildings downtown are eligible.”
When asked about the area of the city under consideration, City Clerk Becca Smith said, to begin with, the footprint is mainly downtown, but could expand. The proposed area is Main Street – Ridgeley (including a block on either side) to Church Street.
The panel was asked if it’s to a city’s advantage to be part of Main Street Alabama.
“Absolutely,” Neeley said. “Most historical districts are Main Street Alabama.”
McNair said historic district projects stimulate job creation and an increase in tax revenue … We hear about Gather in Mobile more than Mobile restaurants.”
Buildings already under consideration are the former Staff Chevrolet building (now Jason Pilger Chevrolet), Pepsi Bottling Co. of Atmore, the Strand, and the hardware store adjacent to the Strand.
There was some discussion about the committee that will be appointed to oversee the project.
City Councilwoman Susan Smith said a committee had been formed in a council workshop, but Becca Smith said the council has to pass the ordinance first, that a committee has not been chosen. Susan Smith said the committee will come from the guidelines.
“The mayor and council will appoint a committee,” Becca Smith said. “It will be business owners in the designated area, along with people with construction and architectural backgrounds.”
McNair said the committee would be made of a variety of people, who would roll on and roll off the committee.
See the ordinance in this edition of Atmore News.