Funding obtained for historic registry project

The city of Negaunee is in the beginning stages of a nomination for a spot on the National Historic Registry as a Historic District. This photo of Iron Street shows some of the buildings that might qualify under the designation. (Journal photo by Lisa Bowers)

NEGAUNEE — The city of Negaunee will join Ishpeming in its pursuit for a spot on the the National Register of Historic Places as a Historic District.

The Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development was approved for $45,000 in funding for technical assistance through the Project Empire initiative to help the city to achieve the designation, according to a press release from the Negaunee city manager’s office on Thursday.

The multiple property nomination for the downtown commercial district to the National Register of Historic Places could have several benefits, including eligibility for certain tax provisions, as well as qualification for Federal grants for historic preservation, according to the release.

“The history of any community is important,” City Manager Nate Heffron said. “It tells the story of who we are. Negaunee is at a point where the residents, business owners, and leaders are ready to take on the important task of preserving their history and community character. I am very excited to begin this process and see the outcome of this endeavor.”

TED has hired Jessica Flores of Preservation Forward, who started work on a similar project in Ishpeming in December, to help Negaunee in developing a strategic plan for its historic resources — which officials hope will provide a catalyst for future reinvestment within the downtown area.

Flores is a historic preservation professional who specializes in the rehabilitation of the historic built environment who has worked with hundreds of local governments and community members in order to strengthen the role of historic preservation in communities across Michigan, the release states.

Flores said she is enthusiastic about the opportunity to work with the city of Negaunee and its residents.

“The city of Negaunee has a rich history of mining which is reflective in the architecture that’s visible within the downtown,” Flores said. “The city has iconic, historic buildings, such as the Vista Theater and City Hall, that tell a story of generations long ago. These buildings can continue to tell that story for generations to come.”

At this point, neither the boundaries of the historic district, nor the parameters for establishing the district have been determined, Heffron said.

The project will involve members of the community, downtown property owners, and local stakeholders and a committee will be established to partner with Flores throughout the lengthy process, he said.

Heffron said the technical assistance provided will also include education for city staff and residents on historic preservation as a tool for economic development.

Flores, who will be meeting with city officials in April, said the idea of working with both Ishpeming and Negaunee on the historic projects is appealing not just because of the buildings.

“I see the cities of Negaunee and Ishpeming as ‘Sister Cities’ both on the brink of something transformative and I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I know that I want to be a part of it,” Flores said. “And it’s not just the historic makeup of both communities or the longevity of the tremendous mining history that’s similar between the two cities.

“I have come across the most thoughtful folks in both Ishpeming and Negaunee who carry a strong sense of pride for their history … In fact, I often refer to it as a symbiotic relationship between people and the places they love. That’s the space in which I exist — between the past and what’s to come in the future. I’m simply helping to lend a hand to continue that same story from generations long ago through historic preservation of the built environment.”