Negaunee seeks residents interested in downtown historic preservation

The city of Negaunee is seeking volunteers to serve on a Committee on Cultural and Historical Preservation as a first step toward garnering a spot on the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district. (Journal photo by Lisa Bowers)

NEGAUNEE — City of Negaunee officials are seeking input from residents regarding a historic preservation project expected to start this summer.

City Manager Nate Heffron issued a directive to establish a special committee to research and “present advice on issues concerning the preservation of Negaunee’s culture and history,” he said in a Tuesday press release.

The effort is related to recent efforts to garner a listing as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places, which could have several benefits, including eligibility for certain tax provisions, as well as qualification for federal grants for historic preservation.

“We will entertain applications from people, a wide variety — some on the business side, some on the historical side and individuals who are interested at large,” Heffron said during an interview earlier this month. “On my staff side, I will be on there, (and) the (department of public works) director will be on there, as well, because there will be a lot of questions asked regarding infrastructure.”

The committee will be charged with helping to determine the boundaries of the proposed historic district; hold public meetings to gain insight from the community and stakeholders; hold meetings with downtown property owners; and assist in preparing a historic plan for the historic district.

Committee members must be at least 18 years old; live within city limits; and have an interest in and/or knowledge of historic architecture, history, historic preservation or archaeology, the release states.

In late March, the Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development approved $45,000 in funding for technical assistance through the Project Empire initiative to help the city achieve the designation.

The state department hired Jessica Flores, a historic preservation professional with Preservation Forward, to help Negaunee develop a strategic plan for its historic resources, which officials hope will provide a catalyst for future reinvestment within the downtown area.

Flores said as part of the project, she will talk to business owners in the proposed district to discuss concerns they may have about the historic district designation.

“The one thing with the national (designation) is that there is no regulations, which is kind of shocking for people because that’s a big misnomer. This is honorary, with the potential to tap into tax funds and grant opportunities,” Flores said during an April 3 interview when she visited Negaunee. “This is a really savvy development tool. If you are in the district, or you are individually listed, you have access to the (federal tax) credits” associated with being listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Heffron said the development of a committee, as well as the potential for the historic district designation is the beginning of a concerted effort to revitalize Negaunee’s downtown.

“It all meshes together with our plans down the road,” Heffron said. “When I start working on the economic development of the downtown area — and we are assuming the historic district will include the downtown area because normally that’s what happens. But we also have to, you know, I don’t necessarily consider our street per se historic, so we have to work on a streetscape project that will clean that up a little bit.”

Flores started a similar project for the city of Ishpeming in December, which is expected to take 18 months.