Old is the new thing for communities
LVN Editor Emeritus
Historic downtown areas are now the en vogue thing as Fallon merchants and community leaders learned from the state’s National and State Register coordinator.
Jim Bertolini from the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office in Carson City said communities are not only trying to preserve their history but also market it to attract more visitors and business.
“We want to get more people off the highways and explore the historical parts of a town,” he said.
One of the major reasons for Bertolini appearing in Fallon was to explain how the community can get its downtown area or certain buildings designated as historical sites on the state registry and then develop small businesses to bring in tourism.
Bertolini gave a short presentation at the iconic Fallon Theatres, which became the latest addition to the Nevada State Register of Historic Places in 2017. The State Historic Preservation Office keeps a list of Nevada properties that reflects the history and traditions important to many communities, and Bertolini said the goal is to preserve the old buildings for residents and visitors.
Bertolini said his office encourages owners to continue updating and modifying their businesses and homes. He said demolition and subsequent construction costs more than maintenance and repair.
“They are easily marketable buildings,” Bertolini said of Fallon’s downtown corridor. “You walk the streets, and you see a lot of businesses that are a perfect fit. There are great places for tourism.”
According to Bertolini, the National Registry and Nevada’s Main Street Program complement each other in giving recognition to historic areas. He said owners who rehabilitate their businesses, for example, will receive a 20 percent tax credit on most costs association with rehabilitation, providing the work maintains the historic appearance on the buildings. Bertolini said the Nevada Main Street program was approved by the 2017 Legislature.
“A lot of buildings qualify,” Bertolini said, pointing out that the property must be cited in the National Registry of Historic Places, and the project costs must be substantial per the Internal Revenue Service.
Bertolini said communities may allow owners to weigh in on nominating a building or a part of the downtown district. The eligibility criteria include historical significance, important persons associated with the structure, architecture and information potential. Furthermore, he said seven aspects of integrity will depend on the significance of resources to include location, setting, feeling, association, design, workmanship and materials.
Fallon’s proposed historic district consists of 66.2 acres with buildings built or redeveloped from 1901 to 1966 and included within a specified downtown boundary of fronting Maine and Center streets and Williams Avenue. Other factors in driving the downtown’s historical district include Fallon’s designation as a county seat and commercial area, and the area’s former importance as a major stop on the Lincoln Highway.
“History never stops,” Bertolini said. “It’s something we go back and rehash … and reassess.”
Fallon is not the only community eyeing adding businesses or a district to a national registry. Bertolini said Winnemuca, which is similar in size to Fallon, is looking at developing a downtown district as are other communities such as Ely, Virginia City, Austin, Eureka and Carson City — to an extent. He said these communities and their historical buildings already bring in the visitors to these cities and towns.