By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
With the COVID-19 pandemic’s negative connotations hogging most of the news lately, local residents needed a shot of something positive and uplifting. That arrived last week, when the U.S. Department of the Interior announced that the Strand Theatre and adjoining Atmore Hardware Store building have qualified for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.
Foster Kizer, executive director of Pride of Atmore, which has spearheaded the project to renovate the theater and hardware store as the lynchpin of the downtown Atmore revitalization effort, said the designation is evidence that the group’s hard work is starting to pay off.
“This is another step forward in our quest to get recognition from both state and federal organizations,” Kizer said. “This has not been an easy job. Getting this designation takes a lot of time, resources, photos, history and footwork. Kudos to the Pride of Atmore team.”
According to the Evaluation of Significance conducted by the National Park Service and issued on April 8, the Strand and adjoining structure “appears to contribute to the significance of a potential historic district, which will likely be listed on the National Register of Historic Places if nominated by the State Historic Preservation Officer.”
With the granting of federal approval, the group can now work on getting the green light from state historic preservation officials. Such approval is usually a formality.
Historic Preservation Consultant Steve McNair, who alerted POA officials of the federal decision, said the state should announce its decision by early May.
“This means the Part 2 review will now move forward with the AHC (Alabama Historical Commission),” he said in an email. “I expect to receive comments from AHC within the next 30 days.”
Kizer said the availability of historic tax credits, as well as resumption of the renovation project, hinges on the state following the federal decision.
“These designations will allow us to apply for both state and federal historic tax credits,” he said. “Once we receive notice of our obtaining historic tax credits, we will be able to continue with the actual restoration of the theater and the hardware store.”
If the concurrent approval is gained in the near future, it will set the stage for a gigantic birthday bash.
“Our target date for completion is Spring 2021, when we will be able to celebrate the strand’s 100th birthday,” Kizer said. “That will be one fantastic birthday party. All of Atmore will be invited to celebrate.”