Newton pursues historic registry

North Carolina officials believe Newton’s central business district is among the nation’s historic areas, and that could be good news for downtown property owners.
“I think this is a benefit not only from the cultural aspect of historic preservation of buildings,” said Rob Powell, Newton’s commercial development coordinator, “but with the tax credits … if you do a project that meets federal guidelines you can basically get federal and state tax credits for completing renovations.”
Newton is considering pursuit of a national historic registry designation for portions of the downtown area. According to Ann Swallow, national registry coordinator for N.C. Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, parts of the city surrounding the 1924 Courthouse qualify for inclusion on the nation’s roll of historic places.
“We have a courthouse that is already on the register, but the Court Square has some wonderful commercial buildings that are intact from the early 20th Century up through the 1950s or so,” she said. “The national registry program recognizes areas, such as downtowns, because they are important in the commercial development in that community.”
Swallow said that any downtown area will qualify for inclusion in the national historic registry as long as is “it looks the way it did more than 50 years ago.”
“The issue is whether the area has retained historic buildings, or most of them,” she said, adding that buildings along the north and east sides of the courthouse might qualify. “There is not a lot of new construction, and the buildings have not been significantly altered in the last 50 years. The question is, can someone standing on the Court Square look at the buildings and imagine what it was like in Newton 50 years ago? The answer is yes.”
As Newton explores application to include parts of the city’s downtown on the nation’s historic register, the city is inviting downtown property owners to come to a public meeting Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. During the meeting, Swallow will explain details about the national historic registry program, as well as give information about benefits the designation may deliver for property owners.
“If we have anybody who owns a building or doesn’t own a building and they just want to see the downtown flourish from historic or economic development, if they are interested in downtown at all, it will be worth coming to the meeting,” Powell said. “If you are a business owner and you might want to know the requirements to be a contributing structure, because if you were (part of the historic district) you could take advantage of tax credits if you are interested in fixing up your building.”
The meeting will precede Newton City Council meeting Tuesday at Newton City Hall.
“The national register of historic places is something that property owners or the city can use in promoting their heritage and tourism, and certainly with the tax credits available for intact historic districts, property owners may be interested in learning about the financial benefits.”