April 22, 2009 Edition

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AHPP representatives visit WR

Holly Hope (from left) and Tom Marr of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program visit with Elbert and Lauraetta Melton at the Downtown Walnut Ridge meeting held on Thursday.

Hollyann Crum
Staff Intern

Holly Hope and Tom Marr of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program conducted the Downtown Walnut Ridge meeting Thursday evening in the Lawrence County Community Room.

Hope, special projects historian, and Marr, rehabilitation tax credit coordinator, spoke with members of the community about the possibility of the downtown Walnut Ridge area becoming a historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The register is the official list of the country's cultural and historic resources worthy of preservation. Buildings, objects, structures, sites and districts may qualify for the national register.

Several qualifications must be met to become a district to be added to the register. At least 51 percent of buildings in the area must be contributing and have owner consent to become a district. In order to be considered contributing, a building must be at least 50 years of age and must retain sufficient historic integrity to portray proper period of construction. Buildings are often considered noncontributing due to modernization that has taken place over time. Contributing buildings are qualified to be a district on the national register, while noncontributing buildings are not eligible.

Hope viewed the buildings in downtown Walnut Ridge, giving each a preliminary contributing or noncontributing judgment. The buildings received sufficient contributing marks for historic district consideration.

"If Walnut Ridge does want to move forward with this, a contractor will come in and do research on the history of each building in the district," said Hope. The contractor would also decide on a permanent boundary line for the historic district.

The benefits of becoming a historic district not only include preserving town history, but also promoting tourism, increased knowledge and pride in local history, increased property values, historic preservation restoration grants and rehabilitation tax credits.

The tax credit would allow the owner of each building to recoup 20 percent of the costs of renovating a historic building by way of a credit on their federal tax. To receive tax credit the property must be listed or eligible for national register, the building must be used for an income-producing business and the owner must spend the base value of the building on renovation.

After the meeting, President of the Lawrence County Historical Society Lloyd Clark commented positively about downtown Walnut Ridge becoming a historic district. "If we want to be Walnut Ridge, we have to do something," he said. "It would be a very viable thing to do. Our town has a lot of history."

For more information concerning downtown Walnut Ridge, contact info@downtownwalnutridge.org or visit www.downtownwalnutridge.org.

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