By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
The Alabama Historic Commission’s National Registry Review Board approved last week a request that Atmore be considered for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, a designation that could spark an upswing in the downtown revitalization effort.
“It’s a big deal,” said Foster Kizer, executive director of Pride of Atmore, the non-profit spearheading the downtown rehab plan. “It will help business owners and downtown building owners This is another step in making Atmore a place where people want to stay and want to live.”
The review board’s vote in favor of the historic designation was reportedly unanimous and was based on a study and review of the town’s history and its oldest buildings.
Kizer noted that POA had already collected or had received pledges for nearly one-fourth of the anticipated $3 million price tag for restoring the Strand Theater and the former hardware store building that adjoins it. The historic district designation should eventually help enhance that, he said.
“The tax credits we’ll get will cover about a third of the total,” Kizer said. “It’s a very involved process … but if we get on the national registry, POA and the people who own the buildings will get a combined 45 percent credit on their federal and state taxes. The state will write us a check; the federal will issue tax credits that we can sell.”
But, he cautioned, the historic designation didn’t mean the work was over. In fact, it serves more as a kickoff for organization of the city’s historic district.
“We still don’t have all the necessary people to sign up (for the Atmore Historic Commission, which still must be formally approved by the city council),” he said. “Once all the positions are filled, and the city council approves it, we can get going on that.”
As Kizer pointed out, the commission needs “people that are going to commit” to the position and put together rules and regulations that will apply to businesses in the historic district, for which exact boundaries have not yet been disclosed.
City council members were given a list of commission nominations earlier this year, but City Clerk Becca Smith said the requirements for a seat on the panel (which requires a minimum of six members) are apparently too restrictive for some.
Individuals who will serve on the committee must submit a letter of acceptance, along with a resume, before they are approved for seats.
“The process is taking longer than we thought it would,” Smith said. “We nominated people a long time ago, and we sent letters and made phone calls to them. We have several who have agreed to serve, but some of them told us they did not want to serve, or they did not respond.
“Probably what’s going to happen is, after we hear from everyone, we’ll choose some people to replace those who did not want to serve or did not respond.”
Kizer revealed that all commercial or residential structures within the district that are 60 years old or older could qualify for placement on the registry of historic buildings. He reiterated that the recently approved district would be beneficial, especially in the long term.
“It’s a good thing for two reasons,” Kizer said. “One, it helps with future grant requests. Two, it can be expanded later on. Neighborhoods and blocks could become part of the historic district.”